Research findings and policy recommendations about child and family well-being can positively affect family outcomes—but only if that work reaches those who can apply it to policy and practice. Chapin Hall is committed to the effective dissemination of research into the field of child and family well-being. We recognize that research dissemination is not a singular event, but rather a process over time. It requires careful planning, effective translation, and strategic distribution to influence policy and practice.
The Four Phases of the Dissemination Process
Chapin Hall’s approach to dissemination is guided in part by the Value-Added Research Dissemination Framework developed by Public Strategies for the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In the planning phase we identify target audiences and the ways that they consume and use research. We consider the most effective framing for the audience, the most influential messengers, and the best channels through which to reach them. In this phase we identify key influencers and early adopters in the field.
In the translation and packaging phase we develop materials that are most appropriate for the target audiences. Examples of materials and products in this phase are reports, briefings, web-based presentations of the research, conference presentations, videos, policy briefs, webinars, technical reports, and manuscripts for scholarly journals. We produce clear and concise communication to all audiences while maintaining the scientific integrity of the project’s findings.
The strategic distribution phase draws from our and our partners’ existing communication infrastructures—websites, listservs, conference participation, and so on—to match audiences using the most appropriate outreach methods. Based on an assessment of which media are used by our target audiences, this phase might also include extensive social media components, including posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It might also include short videos as well as mass media outreach through press releases and press events (calls or briefings). This phase allows for message repetition and effective knowledge transfer over time.
Finally, the evaluation phase shows the reach of the research. It begins with an initial assessment 72 hours after the release of the report or resource. Our communications team measures open rates of emails, website page visits, and report or resource downloads. Strategies are adjusted and enhanced based on this assessment, which is repeated 30 days after the release. Longer-range dissemination plans are tracked (such as conference presentations or journal articles), and careful monitoring of communications ensures key message reinforcement and evaluation of what strategies were most effective.
Going the extra dissemination mile
As our dissemination work intensified in the human service sector, Chapin Hall realized that we did not know enough about a key audience: human service providers. While robust communication research was available on Capitol Hill influencers, policymakers and other key audiences, we couldn’t identify one study that looked at the communication preferences of human service providers.
We funded a study ourselves to fill this gap. In 2021, we conducted a national communication preference survey of human service leaders and practitioners. More than 900 human service professionals across all 50 states responded to the survey. They ranged from caseworkers to state-level directors and represented more than a dozen sectors.
Disseminating research to youth and family service professionals: Results of a national survey captures their robust responses. This information has allowed Chapin Hall to more strategically develop communication products, messengers and channels, which build a stronger bridge between research and practice.
But we didn’t do this study just for us. We shared this information with the field through more than a dozen presentations and intensively targeted email campaigns. These led to thousands of page visits and hundreds of downloads of the report. Our goal was to raise the entire research and policy field’s capacity to communicate with these professionals who provide direct service to children and families.
Effective dissemination is key to ensuring that evidence is applied in practice. Delivering persuasive messages from credible messengers in the most preferred channels and formats, repeatedly and over time, provides the level of dissemination needed for evidence to affect practice, and, ultimately, outcomes for children and families.