Intersectoral Prevention Research Strengthening Workshop – Executive Summary

March 10 – 11, 2016

Session Highlights

Co-Hosted by CIHR’s Institutes of Population and Public Health (IPPH) & Infection and Immunity (III) on behalf of the CIHR Environments and Health Signature Initiative

Session Purpose

The workshop seeks to examine how intersectoral strategies and approaches contribute to improvements in population health and health equity by preventing, mitigating, reducing and/or enhancing resilience to harmful environmental exposures and/or promoting healthful environments.

Workshop Objectives

  • To provide an opportunity to intersectoral prevention research teams who have been successful at the Letter of Intent (LOI) stage to:
    • Learn from the expertise of researchers and knowledge users involved in intersectoral prevention research; and,
    • Explore strategies and tools for strengthening their full applications.
  • To create a forum for dialogue and networking between researchers, knowledge users, partners and research funders to identify mutually beneficial opportunities for collaboration.

Key Themes

Opening Ideas

  • It is important to hear the indigenous voice in the intersectoral research that comes forward from teams. Canada’s reconciliation agenda requires that this voice, along with indigenous knowledge and wisdom be heard and honoured.
  • Bringing this initiative to life has been a multi-year journey. The time for innovation in multisectoral work is NOW. There’s a confluence of interest from policy makers and researchers. This work can move from aspiration to action because of this shared appetite.
  • Research that has transformative results is predicated on trust-based collaborations.
  • Nexus research is about streamlining, creating efficiencies and being destination-focused.
  • Making an impact on health and health equity, requires that we work in the intersectoral space.
  • The aim of the workshop is to strengthen connections with you and among you. Everyone coming out of this workshop should see ways to strengthen their applications and their work moving forward. This workshop can help teams achieve greater success.

Keynote #1: Research and Policy Perspectives on Intersectoral Prevention

Speaker: Karen Dodds, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science & Technology Branch, Environment Canada

  • There’s a range of environmental impacts on health and the policy challenge is how to monitor and address all of them.
  • The collective challenge in the intersection of policy and research is to present sharp and compelling evidence that is solution-oriented and that convinces lay people.
  • At all times, think about answering the “what, so what and now what?” questions. We need science to support the answering of these questions.
  • Effective translation of research findings into a case for policy change is key.
  • Pay attention to scale and impact and use visually appealing to tools to communicate key findings.
  • Focus on multiple co-benefits to demonstrate the importance and value of the research. There are always multiple “actors” impacted by research findings and conclusions.
  • Open science and open data are positive trends – they address a commitment to increased transparency.
  • Government needs demonstrable evidence of a problem before it will shape a regulation or policy to respond.
  • It’s important to facilitate collaboration between orders and levels of government.
  • There’s a disconnect between grant funding cycles and long-range research studies. It’s important for researchers to be realistic about what can be delivered within their timeframe and look for renewal / new funding opportunities to continue the work beyond a grant cycle.
  • Knowledge translation work must begin early in the research process. One can’t start too soon to build relationships at multiple levels in order to increase the capacity to “receive” the findings and  their implications. Policy staff and scientists don’t always have the same understanding – and so early communications and pre-conditioning on potential policy implications is important.

Panel #1: Strengthening LOI Applications to improve alignment with funding opportunity


  • Malcolm King, Scientific Director, CIHR-Institute of Aboriginal Peoples Health
  • Nancy Edwards, Scientific Director, CIHR-IPPH
  • Patrice Voss, Project Manager, CIHR-Institute of Gender & Health
  • Suzete Dos Santos, Competition Lead, Priority Driven Research Branch, CIHR
  • Sheila Chapman, Senior Advisor, Ethics, CIHR

Moderator: Catrin Owen

(See Q +A assembled by CIHR: Appendix 1). Additional advice to research teams:

  • Demonstrating how decision-making will be managed across large teams is key. Reviewers need to see the individual and collective roles of team members.
  • Bringing people with lived-experience into the planning stage of the research is important. Indigenous Canadians are supportive of research, but are tired of research “about them” that does not include them.
  • Research applications must have cohesion and coherence – and not be a collection of projects. Reviewers must be convinced that there is a systematic approach.

Research Teams’ “Elevator Pitches”

  • These presentations described the nature of each project (See Project Abstracts: Appendix 2). The research projects explore the art of the possible, and how rigorous research can not only shape important policy solutions but also be a force for good in society. Common to the presentations were overarching concepts of:
    • Citizenship
    • Justice
    • Equity
    • Inclusion
    • Reconciliation
    • Deconstructing colonialization
    • Human rights
    • Anti-racism
  • International partnerships were explored in the presentations, with the rationale for their research value being the importance of an “outside perspective” and an ability to “see things that we are too close to”.

Panel #2: Exploring the Power of Partnerships with other Sectors


  • Mark Ferdinand, Director General, CIHR’s Partnerships & Business Development Branch
  • Matt McCandless, Executive Director, Experimental Lakes Area
  • Jake Schabas, Senior Advisor, Metrolinx
  • Amanda Sheedy, Director of Development and Engagement, Food Secure Canada

Moderator: David Secord, Barnacle Strategies & Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University

  • Partnerships are more powerful when you work with people you like. The combination of people can make a difference – positive or negative – on your progress. Choose partners wisely.
  • Partnerships have to be useful – they have to have meaning, and be about more than simply sharing information. “Token partnerships” are very high risk.
  • Effective partnerships must have a combination of four factors:  People, Preparation, Patience and Persistence.
  • Thinks of partnerships as an elegant and symmetrical quilt. Well-designed partnerships are planned and deliberate with an appropriate investment of time and resources.
  • Having a common goal is not enough – measuring what you are doing is important too. Think about the Stanford Collective Impact Model.
  • Partnership success factors:
    • Common goals and agenda
    • Clarity of roles and responsibilities
    • Common progress measures
    • Regular check-ins
    • Ongoing commitment to communications
    • Optimism and a shared interest in “the art of the possible”
    • Shared appetite for making a public impact and influencing the policy landscape
    • Give and take and a commitment to excellence.
  • New research cannot just be stacked up on the academic “loading dock” – there’s an imperative for researchers to be “stevedores of knowledge” – to unload the academic cargo, to unpack the findings, thus making the knowledge manageable, accessible and relatable to communities.
  • Partnerships and community engagement are not the same thing. There is often a requirement and responsibility to engage with community – this is not the same as building alliances to strengthen research.
  • A shared research agenda and a mutual interest is only the beginning. An effective partner relationship has to be respected and nurtured and given the appropriate investment of time and resources.

Panel #3: Maximizing International Synergies and Opportunities for Collaboration


  • Ann Uustalu, Research Programme Officer, EU Commission
  • Christine Jessup, Program Officer, NIH-Fogarty International Center
  • Greg Hallen, Program Leader, Food, Environment and Health, International Development Research Centre
  • Alyson Surveyer, Global Coordination Officer, Future Earth

Moderator: Marc Ouellette, CIHR-III

  • Environments and health is truly global in scope. There is great potential for international synergies and collaboration.
  • Europe’s significant investment ($20 billion Euros) in intersectoral research is an indication of the scale of interest in this kind of nexus research.
  • Solving Canadian problems within a global context can impact and enhance the calibre of the research and the reach of the knowledge translation.

Closing Advice and Reflections on the Workshop

  • Applications have to find the right balance of specificity and elasticity so that the work can evolve but the vision, goals and intentions are set from the outset.
  • The current applications are strong, but still evolving and will be strengthened further as a result of the connections and alliances built at the workshop. Applicants who know that their partner relationships will change should be as explicit as possible about the evolutionary nature of those partnerships and try to anticipate the changes.
  • Economists have an important voice in intersectoral research and should not be an afterthought. Build their role into the work early and treat them like scientists as opposed to tacticians.
  • Any potential conflicts of interest need to be explicitly described and managed at the application stage.
  • Consideration should be given to requiring a funding allocation from each of the successful research teams for a co-coordinator/liaison position so that horizontal work across the teams is facilitated. Convening the grantees on an ongoing basis is sensitive, but should be explored. Collaborative events such as this workshops could become a hallmark of the Environments and Health Signature Initiative.
  • The aim of this Initiative must be authentic and accountable relationships between the researchers and their funding partners.
  • The “big picture” of this initiative is finding the intersection of meaningful research and societal needs.
  • This workshop was successful in building a sense of community among applicants – this was a positive (and somewhat surprising) outcome.
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