Investigators – University Of Sussex: Dr. Emma Russell (PI), Deepali Dmello (Research Centre Manager) and Marc Fullman (Technology and Communications Manager).

Please visit agiLab if you also wish to name our NHS partners on the steering committee.

Through collaboration between academics and practitioners, agiLab participates to develop more flexible ways of meeting the needs of workers, patients and society.

Background

In March 2021, colleagues at Digit, the NHS South-East Regional Social Partnership Forum (SPF) and the NHS South-East HR Directors Network set up ‘agiLab’. agiLab’s aims are to promote and facilitate an evidence-based approach to best practice and research in agile working through academic and practitioner collaboration and knowledge exchange. This directly addresses an NHS strategic objective to develop more flexible and pioneering ways of meeting the diverse needs of workers, patients and society. As a unique collaboration, agiLab is devised to be at the forefront of leading the agenda to support and optimise this, via the utilisation of, and contribution towards, state-of-the-art academic research. A steering committee of university, NHS and union colleagues support agiLab’s running and agenda.

agiLab runs tri-annual half-day conferences on best practice in agile working, attended by NHS workforce managers. It also shares resources through our website, regular meetings, and social media. agiLab is funded by NHS Employers.

Engagement & Impact

Each agiLab conference is chaired by Dr Emma Russell from the University of Sussex, and content is developed through collaboration with our NHS partners. Each conference has included sessions on:

  1. Research Round-up: reporting on the latest, ongoing and relevant academic research in the field.
  2. Thought Leader Speaker: An academic ‘thought leader’ holds a one-hour session outlining findings from their research into agile working, with Q&A.
  3. Future Focus: We discuss a ‘hot topic’ in agile working, where members of the audience can discuss and debate what this means for them in their professional practice, with experts leading the session.
  4. Best Practice Exemplar: An NHS ‘expert’ is invited to present a best-practice exemplar of how an agile working project/service has been delivered, and any learning points from this.

Conferences

Each of the agiLab half-day conferences to date has been attended by 40-50 NHS personnel and feedback has been very positive. Delegates have said:

“So valuable to have the research in order to make evidence-based decisions going forwards.”

“I thought that was a really great case study – very thought provoking.”

“Great to hear examples of good practice from within NHS.”

“Great presentation and a lot for us leaders and e-leaders to consider.”

Website and Social Media

We have set up a website (https://agiLab.org.uk), to act as a forum for sharing information and ideas about research and best practice in agile working. agiLab members can also access and download slides and other content from the conferences.

In conjunction with the website we have recently launched a twitter account (@agiLab_Sussex) and LinkedIn account (https://www.linkedin.com/agiLab) where social media activity and news can be more immediately disseminated.

As a result of the collaboration, two funded projects have also been developed: ‘Leading an agile workforce in the NHS’ (HRA approved and currently underway, funded by NHS People Directorate), and ‘Attending to the agile working needs of NHS Staff with lower socio-economic status’ (accepted and funded by NHS Employers).

NHS Strategic Workforce Forum

agiLab has had a successful first year of operation, and has garnered interest and plaudits across the NHS. In October 2021, we were invited to present at the NHS Strategic Workforce Forum as an example of a successful collaboration, with benefits including:

  • Knowledge exchange (Academics learn what are the key issues on the ground for the NHS; Practitioners hear about the latest academic research as it is happening; Trusts share insights on agile working through Best Practice Exemplars),
  • Co-production of research and making connections across regions,
  • Staff development – steering committee and live, regular engagement and feedback in attending conferences,
  • Making great use of existing resources and being creative.