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Practice Profiles: A Method for Improving Evidence in Partnership With Communities

Allison Metz

The use of evidence in social work practice has tended to rely on unidirectional flow from research to practice (Cabassa, 2016) without a clear understanding of how context, community needs, and resources shape the use of research in practice. "Practice Profiles" are a promising method for operationalizing, testing, and improving a community-focused intervention developed through stakeholder engagement and research methods (Metz, 2016; Metz & Easterling, 2016).

The development of practice profiles requires a rigorous 5-step process:

  1. semi-structured stakeholder interviews;
  2. systematic scoping review;
  3. document review;
  4. vetting and consensus process; and
  5. usability testing.

This lightning talk provides a brief overview of these steps, focusing on usability testing as an improvement method. Usability testing is a strategic and rapid use of the PDSA cycle, testing interventions with rolling cohorts of users and beneficiaries, making iterative improvements to the intervention and implementation supports between each cycle. Usability testing helps researchers and technical assistance providers understand:

  • the context in which the intervention is tested;
  • clarity of the principles and core components of the intervention;
  • feasibility and relevance of using the intervention; and
  • supports needed to implement the core components.

Usability testing also provides information on service beneficiaries' service experiences. The lightning talk provides a case example from a statewide initiative in child welfare to demonstrate how usability testing can promote scale and sustainability of interventions in complex systems to improve population outcomes.