What’s next for RAACWI?

Funding for the Research Action Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury ended this spring, but that didn’t stop the group from making plans for the future. First comes funding, then comes expansion?

After six years and with its funding period officially over, Ontario’s Research Action Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury (RAACWI) came to a close in March. But the group has been brainstorming about rebirth and expansion, and it seems likely that participants in the initiative will be seeking funding from multiple sources—some focused more on research, others more on community activities. The group remains dedicated to maintaining the research and knowledge-to-action momentum of the former alliance.

From the start, we wanted to change the world. We did so much, but there’s so much more to do. Now we need to transform ourselves based on the changing environment, says RAACWI’s community lead, Steve Mantis, secretary of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. Mantis worked alongside the academic lead, Dr. Emile Tompa, a scientist at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH).

Six-year research initiative

RAACWI was a joint community-university research initiative that came together in 2005 to investigate how the workers’ compensation system helps and/or hinders injured workers. Funding was provided through a $1 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in 2006. From that time to March 2012, it supported more than 25 research studies, some of which have had uptake in the policy arena.

A symposium sponsored by RAACWI, held at the University of Toronto in mid-November 2011, afforded the group the chance to tally up its accomplishments. The alliance’s activities were presented as stakeholders from across Canada (over 130 delegates) came together to talk about issues affecting outcomes for injured workers. The goal of the symposium was to showcase the important work that has been done by the alliance, says Tompa.

These accomplishments did not go unnoticed. I applaud you for this symposium and the information you provide today, said Ontario Minister of Labour Linda Jeffrey as she delivered her first official address, 23 days into her new job. I am going to listen to you and learn from you.

Support also came from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. The important and groundbreaking work of RAACWI is nothing short of inspiring, said Judy Geary, WSIB’s vice-president of Work Reintegration, in her opening address.

Plans for the future

Soon after the symposium, RAACWI’s steering committee met to map out short- and long-term plans. Some projects will be wrapping up and the committee will ensure they are on the road to publication. The committee also plans to publish a summary of the proceedings of the symposium in fall 2012. This report will be distributed electronically to attendees and made available on the RAACWI website.

As for more long-range plans, they must, by necessity, start with the question of funding. The grants secured will ideally encompass both aspects of the work RAACWI did: community activities and research. And so the group will most likely have to consider multiple funding sources. However, both Mantis and Tompa are committed to maintaining links between future research and community work on the consequences of work injury. We need to consider more funding to continue the research, the community activities, and continue the partnership, says Mantis. It’s rare when all of these things can come together in one funding envelope.

Some participants in the initiative are exploring the possibility of extending the scope of activity—to include more provinces and to include research into other disability income support programs beyond workers’ compensation. The team developing this idea is beginning to look internationally to see how others have successfully managed similar ventures.

Tompa sums up the final days of RAACWI. It is an ending of sorts, but also an opportunity for new beginnings, he says. Whatever the future holds, both groups—the researchers and the injured worker community—are deeply committed to continuing to work together.

For symposium proceedings and more information about RAACWI, go to: www.consequencesofworkinjury.ca.

Source: At Work, Issue 68, Spring 2012: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto