Networking, peer learning and collaboration

Networking, peer learning and collaboration

Methods that involve networking, peer learning and collaboration enable people (staff and patients) to connect formally or informally and work together on a shared focus to enable the spread and scale of an innovation or improvement.

Seven methods have been identified in this category and are summarised below.


The effectiveness of these methods will vary depending on context, but key strengths of methods which utilise networking, peer learning and collaboration include: 

  • Can be self-sustaining and enable ‘organic’ and sizable spread [i]
  • Can support local adaption as well as adoption
  • Can create a ‘pull’ for the intervention
  • Honest broker models can be tailored and adapted to meet local challenges, barriers and concerns to overcome these

However, there will be limitations to these methods which may include:

  • Some clinical areas or products may be lacking in interest or engagement from networks
  • Networks may not be enough alone to overcome intractable challenges or barriers to spread
  • Networks are often a self-selecting group of ‘enthusiasts’ whose reach may remain limited

Methods and Levers


Collaborative group of people with a common interest or purpose come together to support, share knowledge and spread good practice, includes both creation of new networks and ‘network riding’ Examples include:

Co-production with end users

Supported joint development of interventions by originators with end users – usually patients but also systems – with aim of increasing efficacy and acceptability of intervention. Examples include:

Patient voice enablement (‘patient pull’)

Promoting patient advocacy to create pull on local systems to adopt new innovations or improvement practices. Examples include:

Honest broker

Additional support provided to co-ordinate at local level between companies, the NHS, and other parties – particularly where there is a lack of trust or knowledge about the market, and as part of transformational change[ii]. Examples include:

Leadership support and champions

Mobilisation of clinical, charity, system, or other champions (individuals, organisations) in support of interventions. Delivered through whole range of communication and engagement channels. Examples include:

Community of practice

Creation of formal or informal network of partners (within and outside NHS) to share knowledge and best practice in an open ended, exploratory way; evolving organically. Examples include:


Highly structured, brings organisations together to introduce evidence-based actions / changes. Model developed by the IHI. Combines group learning with action. Organisations are accountable to a shared aim and to each other. Examples include:

Practical considerations for use

Method or LeverStage of development *Audience and scale **Resources neededTimeframe
NetworkIdeation to spreadNational, regional or local Support to run the networkOngoing, may self limit if linked to a specific goal or funding stream
Co-production with end usersAll stagesNational, regional or local audience of end users, intervention or problem specificPatient and stakeholder engagement mechanisms and buy-in1-3 years
Patient voice enablement  (‘patient pull’)Spread Potentially all stagesNational, regional or local, targeted to clinical specialty or interventionEngagement support, including with patient groups and charitiesVariable depending on nature of intervention
Honest brokerIdeation to spreadRegional or local, targeted to clinical specialty/ interventionRegional or sub-regional support1-3 years
Leadership support and championsIdeation to spreadNational, regional or local; often targeted to clinical specialtyCommunication and engagement, clinical leadership6-18 months
Community of practiceIdeation to spread National, regional or localVariable, can be self-sustaining or require supportOngoing or self-limiting
CollaborativesPrototype/testing and spreadNational, regional or local, targeted by clinical specialtyNational funded programme1-3 years

* Stages of intervention development – Ideation, Proof of concept, Prototype/Testing, Spread

** Audience and scale – national/regional/local, targeted by clinical speciality / product/ problem


[ii] Creating allegiance: leading transformational change within the NHS | BMJ Leader