Mental health, addiction and disability professionals from across New Zealand are progressing through a SPARK coaching and mentoring programme that encourages implementing evidence into practice.

As part of the New Zealand International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) meeting held in March 2013, 12 New Zealand professionals took part in a two day workshop. This brought together a range of international and national experts.

Each trainee had identified a project to implement evidence into practice in their service using the Innovation to Implementation (I2I) model. I2I is a practical, step-by-step guide to create and implement an effective systematic plan to help services implement innovation and evidence into their services, and a key part of the IIMHL’s SPARK programme.

The programme follows Kitson’s suggestion that innovation is most likely to succeed when it involves expert facilitation and key stakeholders.

To support implementation of the trainees’ projects, Te Pou provided a nine month coaching and mentoring programme. In November 2013, the graduates presented the results of their projects, which showcased how they had been able to facilitate the implementation of innovation and evidence into their services.

Examples of service innovation and improvement projects implemented by SPARK trainees included the following.

  • Laura Southward-Ellis of Hutt DHB focused on improving the engagement of families with local mental health services, they implemented a partnership model.
  • Frances Caldwell from Christchurch Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support agency developed a peer-led, peer support choir. This innovation was informed by people's personal experience, case studies, evidence on benefits to mental health from music in general and, participative singing specifically and evidence on benefits of peer support.

To date, the evaluation of the SPARK-NZ training shows that participants have:

  • gained new skills- more planned, structured systematic approach to implementing new knowledge/practices in services
  • gained new insights and practices – stakeholder engagement early on and networking, evidence about strategies to promote evidence uptake
  • gained systematic approaches about implementation of knowledge into practice
  • increased consultation with researchers and use of research evidence to inform practice.

Overall we have learnt that the seemingly simple task of taking knowledge into practice is anything but simple. We have found that a structured model like the SPARK training and associated I2I model is a useful method for implementing evidence into practice and building workforce capacity.

Over the coming months we will profile some of the projects SPARK-NZ graduates undertook – sign up to the Te Pou e-bulletin to keep in touch.

The training held as part of IIMHL in March 2013 was delivered by IIMHL, Mental Health Commission of Canada and Te Pou. The SPARK Training Workshop is an initiative created by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to help participants learn techniques for moving evidence-informed research and knowledge from the fields of mental health, substance use and addictions more quickly into practice.