The Seniors Health Research Transfer Network (SHRTN) was launched in 2005 in Ontario to improve the quality of health care provided to seniors by facilitating knowledge exchange opportunities for formal and informal caregivers, researchers and policymakers.
This article describes the conceptual basis and development of SHRTN, as well as achievements, challenges and lessons learned during its first year of operation, which ended in March 2006. We begin by discussing knowledge exchange networks and their conceptual basis. We then offer a brief history of SHRTN, tracing its origins to both a broad interprofessional interest in creating and sharing knowledge within and across organizations, and also to the efforts of a small group of early champions. After this, we describe the main events, achievements and surprises of SHRTN's first year.
Experience with SHRTN has highlighted the importance of careful attention to governance issues in the organization of knowledge exchange networks, and the challenge of balancing management control with broad participation and flexibility. Collaboration can yield synergy and innovation, but requires commitment from participants. The SHRTN experience has demonstrated that planning and coordinating a provincial network that engages diverse stakeholders is a logistical challenge that requires dedicated infrastructure and funding support.