Building an IR team

Productive dialogue

In the setting of an IR team, productive dialogue is essential for joint prioritization and evidence-based decision-making, the cornerstones of integrated knowledge translation. Genuine collaboration and dialogue can only take place when IR team members share common goals, yet acknowledge underlying differences and fragmentation in their respective approaches. Trust builds when team members recognize these challenges and are willing to jointly address them to achieve their common goals.

Many commentators have defined the key characteristics of authentic dialogue:1

  • Inclusiveness: Individual team members have key pieces of the expertise and knowledge required to address a shared problem, as well as the processes or structures for addressing it.
  • Joint ownership: There must be something real and common at stake in identifying optimal solutions.
  • Learning: Rather than being about talking, productive dialogue is about learning together, and listening to those we might not hear otherwise. It is also about individual team members realizing what they don't know.
  • Humanity: Showing empathy for others' positions.
  • Long term perspective: Recognizing that there are no quick fixes, dialogue is intentionally open-ended.

By its nature, IR takes place in the real, complex adaptive systems of non-experimental settings, and understanding of specific contextual factors and the perspectives of all team members directly influences the planning, design and conduct of the research.

For this reason, productive dialogue is often the best way – indeed the only way – for the IR team to jointly: identify research questions; determine methodologies; conduct the research; interpret findings; disseminate and apply the findings. In practice, dialogue is founded on four key skills that IR team members must cultivate, as summarized in Table 1.

With time and a safe environment, IR team members can learn to let go of personal or organisational biases, and turn to IR methods to jointly design pragmatic, contextual approaches, rather than falling back on generic or familiar ones. In this way, a new paradigm – one of thinking and working together – can be established within IR teams, where contextual learning, dialogue and collective implementation become the norm. Genuine collaboration and accountability can only be generated when IR team members are able to reach this new level of openness with one another. Accountability can also be generated as a by-product of team dialogue – an understanding of what team members can expect from one another – as opposed to being an outcome of 'enforced' monitoring or evaluation.

TDR Implementation research toolkit

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References