Establishing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders plays an important role in IWH’s knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) strategy. It is one of the four key components of the IWH approach to KTE that is outlined in how we do KTE. Key to establishing and maintaining these relationships is our engagement with stakeholders through formal networks.
IWH’s stakeholder networks represent knowledge users from the wide range of audiences that make up Ontario's occupational health and safety and disability management community, including policy-makers, workplace parties, professional practitioners and clinicians.
Networks allow for regular, face-to-face meetings with stakeholder representatives above and beyond stakeholder meetings that occur as part of the research process on specific projects. At these meetings, we review recent or planned research of interest with stakeholders, as well as ask stakeholders about the issues in their work that might benefit from new research.
All networks share a common purpose: to promote evidence-informed policy and practice in the prevention of work injury and disability. Members may also be approached to participate on research project teams or on project advisory committees, and to assist with dissemination of research findings to their own networks, clients or members.
The Institute established its first formal network in 2001 – the Physiotherapy Educationally Influential (EI) Network. Over the years, the Institute continued to develop new networks and, today, a total of 11 networks are in place. These networks, and the stakeholders they represent, are described below.
Ontario prevention system network
The Prevention Knowledge Exchange Group (PKEG), which is hosted by IWH, brings together representatives of organizations in the Ontario work injury and illness prevention system. The organizations represented, which meet four times a year, include the following:
- Ministry of Labour (MOL)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA), serving the construction, utility and transportation sectors
- Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA), serving the health-care, education and municipal sectors
- Workplace Safety North (WSN), serving the mining, pulp & paper and forestry sectors, as well as northern Ontario businesses
- Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), serving the manufacturing, retail and agricultural sectors
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW)
- Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC)
- Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD)
- Centre of Research Expertise for Occupational Disease (CREOD)
- Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC)
Educationally influential (EI) clinical/professional networks
Five educationally influential (EI) networks bring together annually clinical/professional practitioners who are considered by others in their professions to be mentors or opinion leaders. The five professions that each have their own EI network are:
- occupational therapists
Members of the EI networks are identified through a process of nomination. A survey is sent out to members of professional associations asking recipients to identify practitioners who enjoy teaching others and who take the time to share what they know, among other criteria, using a process modeled on that developed by Hiss et al. (1978).
The EI networks used to meet separately, once or twice a year. However, in 2016, we met for the first time with members from all five EI networks at an event we called an “EI summit.” The feedback from the network members was so positive – they especially welcomed the opportunity to share experiences about using research evidence with colleagues from other disciplines – that a decision was made to hold EI summits going forward.
Networks for injury, illness and disability prevention professionals
Two networks serve the interests of workplace injury and disability prevention/management professionals: the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Professionals Network and the Disability Managers Network. These networks are established through an open-invitation process, and they meet annually to discuss research findings, new projects and emerging practice issues. At the request of the members, IWH established LinkedIn groups for each network to allow for posting and discussing research findings and to provide networking opportunities throughout the year.
Workplace party networks
Two networks are dedicated to workplace parties: the Labour Forum and the Employer Forum. These network members are recruited through personal contact and other networks, each meeting twice a year. The Labour Forum has representatives from the larger Ontario unions, as well as labour umbrella organizations. The Employer Forum has representatives from employer associations, organizations serving employers in the area of OHS or disability management, and some large, individual employers.
Influential research users network
The Influential Knowledge Users (IKU) Network is made up of members from multiple stakeholder categories who are champions of using research evidence to inform policy and practice. As well, these people are senior enough in their organizations to influence decision-making. Twice a year, this group meets to share ideas about improving knowledge transfer and exchange across all the organizations represented. We have also interviewed individual or small groups of IKUs about how best to develop and sustaining knowledge exchange between researchers and knowledge users.