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Background: Maps and mapping tools through geographic information systems (GIS) are highly valuable for turning data into useful information that can help inform decision-making and knowledge translation (KT) activities. However, there are several challenges involved in incorporating GIS applications into the decision-making process. We highlight the challenges and opportunities encountered in implementing a mapping innovation as a KT strategy within the non-profit (public) health sector, reflecting on the processes and outcomes related to our KT innovations.
Methods: A case study design, whereby the case is defined as the data analyst and manager dyad (a two person team) in selected Ontario Early Year Centres (OEYCs), was used. Working with these paired individuals, we provided a series of interventions followed by one-on-one visits to ensure that our interventions were individually tailored to personal and local decision-making needs. Data analysis was conducted through a variety of qualitative assessments, including field notes, interview data, and maps created by participants. Data collection and data analysis have been guided by the Ottawa Model of Research Use (OMRU) conceptual framework.
Results: Despite our efforts to remove all barriers associated with our KT innovation (maps), our results demonstrate that both individual level and systemic barriers pose significant challenges for participants. While we cannot claim a causal association between our project and increased mapping by participants, participants did report a moderate increase in the use of maps in their organization. Specifically, maps were being used in decision-making forums as a way to allocate resources, confirm tacit knowledge about community needs, make financially-sensitive decisions more transparent, evaluate programs, and work with community partners.
Conclusions: This project highlights the role that maps can play and the importance of communicating the importance of maps as a decision support tool. Further, it represents an integrated knowledge project in the community setting, calling to question the applicability of traditional KT approaches when community values, minimal resources, and partners play a large role in decision making. The study also takes a unique perspective—where research producers and users work as dyad-pairs in the same organization—that has been under-explored to date in KT studies.