In this initial phase of a long-term collaboration, we used DE to highlight and learn from planned activities that did not turn out as expected. As one research task in DE is to facilitate data-based decision-making developmental processes (7), we have surely contributed by highlighting the lack of a register of staff characteristics and competence. Moreover, by making the managers aware of the poor attendance at the dialogue meetings, we have elucidated the fact that collaboration tends to remain on a rhetoric level if the intended group (i.e., HCP) does not participate. New insights into the municipal organization have made us aware of the conflicting requirements the HCP must handle.
If the visions and ambitions agreed on by managers and scholars are to imbue care practice, anchoring is required. For example, anchoring the decision to set-up the register to achieve an overview of the competence level among the staff and, anchoring the view that engagement in research is a work task among others. The high frequency of organizational change initiatives in the municipal health care sector (3) probably causes ‘project fatigue’ and feelings of disengagement among staff. This might be one explanation for why things turned out differently than planned.
The postponement of the joint dialogue meeting, the revised methodology to develop the online survey and the redefinition of the strategic planning process could be interpreted as failures in relation to the original plan. Interpreted as a lesson for the future, these outcomes advocate a flexible research approach, recognizing that collaboration implies mutuality and restricts the sovereignty of academia in designing research, a reciprocal logic.
Applying DE, the authors of this note are researchers and actors in the process as well as evaluators, and the implementers are reg. HCP and managers. The KTA framework pinpoints the fact that when we as scholars speak of knowledge, we primarily refer to scientific research (6). The KTA process occurs in a complex social system of interactions among stakeholders, but the knowledge per se is epistemologically derived from scientific analysis. As a matter of fact, the question “What do we mean when we talk of knowledge and evidence?” spontaneously came up during meetings between researchers and municipality staff. This discussion reflected the importance of clarifying perspectives on evidence-based knowledge and practices.
To conclude, collaborative research is risky business (12–14). If collaboration is to be a truly mutual enterprise, academia must be prepared to confer power to the partnering organization. This transfer of power reduces the academic control of the course of events. Planned activities can easily be overturned by factors belonging to the partnering organization. Such ‘extended uncertainty’ is certainly more demanding than a working mode where only researchers are in charge.