Externally designed and implemented organisational change interventions are thought to have a greater chance of success when they are supported by one or more internal staff members acting as facilitators (Greenhalgh, Robert, Macfarlane, Bate, & Kyriakidou, 2004). Such facilitators often manage the administrative tasks associated with an intervention and may be involved in recruitment, consent processes and/or data collection. More importantly, they are social mediators of the ideas and processes central to the intervention. This may involve formal activities such as presentations at staff meetings, but is likely to include ad hoc negotiation and interpretive communication with diverse colleagues and with those implementing the intervention. Thus facilitators are expected to function as persuasive advocates and mediators, using their interpersonal skills and institutional knowledge to deliver and, where necessary, reframe, interventions to maximise their success.

In this paper we build on existing knowledge by describing the attributes, perceptions, contexts and associated behaviours of the facilitators—known as liaison people — of a novel complex trial that was designed to increase the use of research in health policy agencies (CIPHER Investigators, 2014). We demonstrate that the liaison people (LPs) functioned as critical mediators with profound impacts on how the intervention was shaped and received in each site. We develop propositions from our analysis that provide guidance about how to identify and support liaison people (or related functions) in similar interventions. But first, we present an overview of the key roles and characteristics of intervention facilitators in general, and then describe the intervention trial that our LPs were facilitating.


research utilisation, faciliation, championing, process evaluation

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