People want solutions that work: Lessons from four decades of research
Caption: Professor Matt Sanders (UQ) addresses the Life Course Centre Researchers’ Week.
There is arguably no one better qualified to talk on the challenge of turning great research ideas into practical, scalable policy solutions than Professor Matt Sanders, Life Course Centre Chief Investigator and Director of the Parenting & Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland.
Professor Sanders, the founder and lead author of the world-renowned Tripe P – Positive Parenting Program, addressed attendees at the recent Life Course Centre Researchers’ Week, providing a powerful and personal insight into transforming research ideas into real-world impact.
His four-decade research and development journey commenced with his PhD in 1978. His Triple P program was named in 1993, disseminated in 2001 and is now the most extensively used parenting support system in the world, reaching millions of parents and children.
“Unfortunately, many great ideas make little or no impact,” Professor Sanders said. “The opportunity to have interventions put in place at scale is very elusive.”
His advice to researchers seeking to emulate the impact of Triple P? Build an ongoing and constantly evolving evidence base, a culture of innovation, and an over-riding focus on solutions that work.
‘For complex problems, don’t think that you need a sledgehammer and don’t look for a magic bullet. People want solutions that work and a low intensity, light touch can be very effective.”
The Triple P program mirrors this advice with a ‘whole of population’ intervention approach, where parents can enter, exit and re-enter and re-exit the program as they choose. It is not a single dose, but rather tailored to the meet the challenges and circumstances throughout the journey of parenting.
Professor Sanders stressed that innovation must be a crucial component of a researcher’s work. It needs to be ongoing, constantly evolving and improving. ‘Never be satisfied that it is done and dusted,” he said.
Creating an innovation culture in research and development required vision, a solution focus, a sustained commitment, teamwork and collective identity, inter-disciplinary collaboration, mentoring, leadership, networking, engaging with industry and the resilience to cope with setbacks.