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Engaging Human Services with Evidence-Informed Practice
Debbie Plath
ISBN: 978-0-87101-520-4. 2017. Item #5204. 224 pages.
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Human services organizations often need to demonstrate how research evidence supports their programs and practices to secure financing and maintain public trust. This mandate can lead organizations to consider prepackaged interventions that may not be the best solutions for the clients that they serve. How can organizations develop structures and strategies that facilitate the implementation of evidence-informed practice (EIP) while satisfying stakeholders and prioritizing the interests of their client base.

Engaging Human Services with Evidence-Informed Practice, Debbie Plath outlines five phases of an organizational approach to implementing EIP. She guides readers through the development of practice questions; the gathering, critical appraisal, and integration of evidence; and client outcome monitoring and evaluation. Plath emphasizes that implementing EIP is a nonlinear process that unfolds in complex organizational landscapes and cultures. Throughout the process, special attention should be paid to relationship building, strong leadership, and stakeholder engagement. Plath’s model is adaptable to a wide variety of human services organizations and can work in conjunction with clinical decision-making models, empirically supported standardized interventions, practice research methodology, and the development of best practice guidelines.

Throughout the text, a recurring case example illustrates the application of the book’s principles in an organizational setting. At each stage of the implementation process, Plath discusses obstacles and difficulties that many human services organizations must confront – and how to avoid them. This book is a must-read for executives, managers, and practitioners who want to take a reflective and efficacious approach to implementing EIP.
About the Author

Chapter 1: Using Evidence in the Human Services

Chapter 2: The Evidence-Informed Practice Landscape

Chapter 3: Organizational Groundwork for Evidence-Informed Practice

Chapter 4: Phase 1: Defining Practice Questions

Chapter 5: Phase 2: Gathering Evidence

Chapter 6: Phase 3: Critically Appraising the Evidence

Chapter 7: Phase 4: Integrating Knowledge into Practice Decisions and Interventions

Chapter 8: Phase 5: Monitoring and Evaluating Client Outcomes

Chapter 9: Are We Ready?

Debbie Plath, PhD, is an Australian social work practitioner, educator, and researcher. Following a social work academic career at the University of Newcastle, she established a consulting business. Her driving aspiration in this role is to facilitate research-minded and evidence-informed approaches to practice in human services organizations. Dr. Plath is coauthor (with Mel Gray and Stephen A. Webb) of the book Evidence-Based Social Work: A Critical Stance.
At last we have a book on evidence-informed practice (EIP) that public services and particularly social work have waited for far too long. It provides what has been a missing ingredient in the creative mix essential to service improvement - that is, enhancing or changing an organization’s response to gathering compelling evidence about its impacts on individuals, groups, and com­munities. Dr. Plath’s excellent and accessible book is no reductionist, ‘what works’ plug-and-play manual for the hard of thinking. Rather, it is a rigorous, complex, and demanding approach to constructing an organizational and strategic response to preparing and implementing EIP. It is aimed at managers but is highly relevant to a wide range of professionals who need to think, plan, and devote time, resources, and effort to reshape key aspects of the organization that will promote better transparency of decision making through evidence of interventions that need to be congruent with public service values, relationships, and cultures. At the heart of the book is a clear model of implementation that focuses on practical strategies of leadership and change that will mobilize key organizational processes, resources, structures, and decision making that can support frontline workers and teams in using research evidence. Critical realism and social justice inform the analysis throughout and practice examples, and real-world settings feature prominently in this very essential text for progressive leaders of public services – be they manag­ers or practitioners.

Andrew Pithouse
Cardiff University, Wales


This book offers a thought-provoking and practical guide to evidence-informed practice. Debbie Plath outlines how human services leaders, managers, and practitioners can effectively use evi­dence to inform their practice to produce best outcomes with and for the people who use human services. A well-written book that demonstrates the integration of theory, knowledge, and research at its finest. It will become a classic.

Karen Healy, AM
University of Queensland, Australia
President, Australian Association of Social Workers


This book is a welcome addition to the human services literature on evidence-informed organi­zational practice. The pragmatic approach taken by Debbie Plath has produced an immensely practical resource for managers, leaders, and practitioners in human services organizations. Build­ing on her considerable research and experience, Plath highlights the importance of a team approach in developing an organizational culture conducive to evidence-informed practice. An organizational environment committed to the best available evidence, reflective thinking, and sound relationships with service users is, Debbie Plath argues, the ideal mix to respond to, and withstand, the pressures of contemporary human services provision.

Mel Gray
University of Newcastle, Australia


Debbie Plath provides a searching but comprehensive account of the uses of evidence-informed approaches in the human services. It is the foremost practice guide for human services profes­sionals currently available. Her deep understanding helps carefully unpick for the reader the advantages of an organizational model for practice.

Stephen Webb
Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland