Reflections from the 11th Annual D&I Conference

Dec 16,2018 | AKirk Commentary

Settling back into my regular routine following this year’s D&I Conference, I have enjoyed the opportunity to share findings with my colleagues and reflect on my experiences. There was a lot that was new at D&I this year, including Best Poster and Best of D&I sessions; “poster walks” where expert faculty provided “guided tours” of the poster sessions; and D&I orientation sessions for first-time attendees (or those of us wanting a re-orientation to the field). The 11th Annual D&I Conference had a focus on stakeholder engagement and capacity-building, and several of the plenary speakers offered lessons learned. Overall, I enjoyed this focus, as it was a structured opportunity to think more about the communities and systems we work with and how we can foster effective growth and change. Some of my favorite tidbits from the plenary session included the importance of:

  • Building relationships and trust: It is easy to get mired down in the “work.” We were reminded to “look-up” and focus on relationships as much as we are focusing on research and practice.
  • Being clear about your “turkey sandwich”: Adaptation and fidelity continued as a theme at this year’s conference. One of my favorite comments was about knowing what the core components of your intervention are (i.e., in the case of a turkey sandwich, bread and turkey) and what is adaptable (i.e., all the “fixings”).
  • Focusing on the end-user: Related to building trust and relationships was a focus on the end-user and a call to reconceptualize how we view community involvement. My favorite line here was to ask not “how to get people to do what I want?” but “how to help people do what they want?”
  • Remembering process: A final reminder on the importance of process tied back to adaptation, tailoring, and community engagement. Although solutions we design with communities and for communities may not be largely generalizable, the process we go through often is. Thus, equally important as research products are the processes we use.

Several of the featured articles this month highlight some of these themes. First, the paper by Carayon et al. highlights a promising approach for keeping end-users at the forefront of design through the application of human factors and system engineering to D&I. Relatedly, the paper by Stanick et al. reviews of pragmatic measures of implementation, with an eye towards putting the user at the center of measurement. Koh et al. present an orientation to the field for behavioral scientists and may be a good supplement to the D&I orientation sessions offered at this year’s conference. Finally, Birken at al. present a promising new process for selecting theory—underscoring the importance of developing generalizable and reproducible processes for conducting our work.

Overall, the D&I Conference was a great way to cap off 2018, and a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and ideate on approaches for moving the field forward in the coming years.