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DEEP Methodology

DEEP Methodology


It is important to understand that DEEP is an approach to knowledge mobilisation not a  method or intervention. It is as much about ways of being as it is about ways of doing and was developed through a participatory action research project funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales from 2014 to 2016 (Andrews et al 2015). It has been applied across a range of local authorities, social care and community organisations in Wales and Scotland.


The DEEP approach resonates with many aspects of implementation science but is distinct in being highly relational and driven by values-rationality, rather than scientific-rationality (Flyvbjerg 2001). It starts with what matters most to participants rather than the imperative to implement research, and in this way has a strong affinity with social pedagogy. It also resonates with the spirit of social policy and social care in Wales, with its emphasis on mutualism, the co-creation of knowledge and co-production of services.

Key Theories and Methodologies

Key element

Theoretical underpinning

Creating enriched environments of learning that value, respect and affirm people

Senses Framework (Nolan et al 2006)

Human Centred Learning (Lowe and Plimmer 2019)

Social Pedagogy (Hatton 2013)

Valuing diverse and sometimes conflicting sources of evidence

Knowledge democracy (Hall and Tandon 2017, Beresford 2018)

Participatory democracy (Escobar 2011)

Gathering and presenting evidence in narrative and arts-based formats

Storytelling and narrative-based learning (Bruner 1991)

Experience Based Co-Design (Bate and Robert 2007)

Talking and thinking together about diverse types of evidence in context

Social constructionism (Berger and Luckmann 1966)

Dialogue-learning and interthink (Littleton and Mercer 2013)

Identifying and addressing structural barriers to using diverse evidence and operating within complex adaptive systems

Applied phronesis (Flyvbjerg 2001)

Radical social work theory (Ferguson and Woodward 2009)

Complexity theory (McMillan 2008, Auspos and Cabaj 2014)

Community development (Ife 2018)


 Learning and organisational development techniques and methods that support the DEEP approach

The DEEP approach draws on a range of research-informed methods in learning and organisational development, many of which have been developed in other disciplines, e.g. education, health, participatory democracy and community development.


These include:



Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider and Whitney 2000)

A collaborative and appreciative approach to development in five stages, i.e. define, discover, dream, design and deliver

Experience Based Co-Design (Bate and Robert 2007)

An approach to development based on gathering stories of experience - the highs and lows and then exploring the implications

Exploratory Talk (Mercer and Littleton 2007)

A set of ground rules and way of inclusively talking and thinking together

Community of Enquiry (Lipman 2003)

A ten-step approach to generating and exploring important questions, assumptions and implications in response to an ‘evidence’ stimulus

Most Significant Change (Davies and Dart 2007)

A storytelling approach to evaluation with an emphasis on learning in complex and emerging contexts



In some of our DEEP development work, we have combined different techniques, e.g. the use of Community of Enquiry to strengthen the quality of dialogue learning in Most Significant Change. As the DEEP programme work has developed, we have also drawn on other techniques as appropriate, for example in using Mantle of the Expert (Taylor 2016) in the early stages of co-producing a mental health recovery college with staff and people with mental health difficulties.

A diverse range of respected academics have helped to shape and refine the DEEP approach. These include Sandra Nutley (University of St Andrews), Martin Webber (University of York), Neil Mercer (University of Cambridge), Peter Beresford (University of Essex) and Jo Rycroft-Malone (University of Lancaster).