Our Action Research

At Dimensions we talk a lot about being ‘research-led, outcomes-focused.’ But what does this actually mean?

Being ‘research-led’ means that we make decisions on the basis of demonstrable evidence for the likelihood of the expected outcomes. That’s our own research, or other people’s.

Being ‘outcomes-focused’ means that people we support, or could support, are at the very heart of everything we do and every decision we take. We focus on delivering life-enhancing outcomes alongside them.

‘Academia to Action’

We follow proven best practice across all aspects of our work – for example in our use of person-centred thinking tools, or our approach to values-based recruitment.

Our research can be academic or action based – for example, we may work with organisations such as the University of Kent’s Tizard Centre to deliver substantial academic research that leads to a better way of doing things – as was the case for our support methodology, Activate.

However, the majority of our knowledge comes from our 40 years of experience of supporting people with learning disabilities and/or autism to lead ordinary, more fulfilled lives. This ‘Action Research’ is a collection of our learning – sometimes based on getting things wrong first time – that informs our work on a day to day basis. We learn constantly and so our knowledge grows steadily.

At the heart of this Action Research is our ‘Working Together for Change’ programme, the process by which Dimensions gathers feedback from everyone who is involved in the life of our organisation, and delivers continuous improvement.

We put this Action Research to a variety of uses. For example, insights from our family forums, family surveys and elsewhere make it very clear that having family consultants improves the quality our support. That’s why we now have 12 of them – unlike any other provider that we’re aware of. Likewise, we know from the outcomes they achieve that our quality consultant programme works. That’s why we have expanded the programme to around 50 experts by experience who interview and train new staff, and inspect our services.

We also undertake research which leads to new social change campaigns. Both #ImwithSam and #MyGPandMe are campaigns based on insight from substantial pieces of research and initially prompted by the people we support. As was our development of training and resources to support libraries to become autism friendly.

Sometimes there’s a gap between reality and public perception. Our ‘Take Care of Others, Take Care of You’ campaign to change attitudes to support work (and in the process recruit more support workers with the right values) grew from this insight. The research that underpins it paints a compelling picture.

Sharing insight

All the above research is published on our website, and/or partners such as the Tizard Centre. We hope that others may be able to find use for it in designing their own programmes of support.