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Table 2 Design elements of our facilitated virtual policy dialogue (adapted from Damani et al. [20])

From: Enhancing the capacity of the mental health and substance use health workforce to meet population needs: insights from a facilitated virtual policy dialogue

Design element Present? Details and adaptations
Addresses a high-priority policy issue Yes The capacity of MHSUH providers to address emerging population needs is a high-priority national policy issue
Clear meeting objectives Yes Policy dialogue objectives were determined in advance and circulated with the invitation and the pre-meeting information package. Objectives were reiterated at the beginning of the policy dialogue verbally and on a shared-screen slide
Pre-circulated information package and evidence summaries Yes Participants were provided with an agenda (see Table 1), slide deck containing synthesized literature review and preliminary study findings, and consent form in advance
Materials were available in both French and English, Canada’s two official languages
Environment conducive to deliberations Yes Policy dialogue facilitated over Zoom using web-based GDSS technology, shared screens, small breakout rooms facilitated by members of the research team, and an external overarching professional facilitator
Three-hour meeting scheduled during business hours across five Canadian time zones
One breakout room facilitated in French
Clear rules of engagement Yes Chatham House Rule followed
Experienced facilitator hired to conduct policy dialogue and train research team in breakout room facilitation and GDSS software use
Recording of discussions Yes Main session and breakout rooms in Zoom were recorded
Recording prompt on Zoom required participants to provide consent to record to stay in the meeting
Written consent forms were provided to all participants in advance of the meeting, and the link provided in the Zoom chat box at the start of the meeting
Representation of various stakeholder perspectives (including researchers and knowledge user partners), including those who may be affected by decisions related to the issue Yes Participants were purposively selected to represent government, policy and practitioner stakeholders (see Table 3)
Stakeholders included a range of MHSUH providers
Participants were assigned to small-group breakout rooms to maximize variation of perspectives
The research team (including knowledge user partners/advisors) played a key role of discussion group facilitators
Synthesis of high-quality research evidence Yes Synthesis of research findings from literature review, pan-Canadian MHSUH provider survey and key stakeholder interviews were provided in advance of the policy dialogue and presented at the beginning of the dialogue
Opportunity for discussion Yes Facilitated small-group breakout rooms included 5–7 participants
Combined, two breakout sessions included over 1 hour for discussion
No emphasis on reaching consensus No One of the objectives was to assess and foster ‘near’ consensus around the priority policy implications (Focus 1) and next steps (Focus 2) of the research findings
Using an adapted nominal group technique, each group’s top three ideas (based on the small-group discussion) for both focus questions were collated and synthesized into a long list by the expert facilitator, then ranked by individual participants in order by priority
With less time and space for generative discussion in a virtual format (versus in-person), this consensus-building exercise allowed for more focused and concrete discussion
The research team clearly communicated that these priorities would help direct next steps, but no commitment to specific actions was expected from participants
Skilled facilitation Yes External expert facilitator (not a stakeholder or part of the research team) hired to facilitate the main session and lead the ranking and voting
Breakout rooms were facilitated by research team members familiar with the subject matter and trained in the use of the GDSS software
Outcome evaluation Limited The external expert facilitator provided anonymous post-dialogue evaluation forms to each participant with few completing (n = 11/46)
Outputs developed and action plan put in place In progress Critical commentary “call to action” article prepared for publication (Bartram et al. [17])
Multiple conference presentations and keynotes conducted
Infographic developed of research findings including insights from policy dialogue
Webinar conducted as part of the Canadian Health Workforce Network’s annual webinar series (November 2021)
Policy dialogue reflection and follow-up with expert advisory group completed (November 2021)