In 2012, the Graham Boeckh Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research launched a call for expressions of interest for a research network. This would involve bringing together Canada’s youth mental health communities to collectively build one unique pan-Canadian research-to-practice network. The intent was to identify the groups, resources, and ideas that would ultimately form a pan-Canadian network. Interested stakeholders were encouraged to take part, with Jacques Hendlisz acting as partnership lead to provide outreach for the funding opportunity.

What was TRAM?

Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health (TRAM) was a partnership of the Graham Boeckh Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. TRAM’s goal was to work with mental health communities to collectively build one unique pan-Canadian research-to-practice network. Together, the partners committed to invest $25M over a period of five years.

TRAM was a core initiative under CIHR’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) – transforming the health system through provincial/territorial and stakeholder partnerships which create high-impact research.

What was the funded network to do?

Through research and implementation of transformative intervention approaches, the network was asked to catalyze fundamental change in youth and adolescent mental health care in Canada. The vision was that within five years, new approaches, proven in at least one setting, would substantially increase the number of 11-25 year olds who were identified as in need of services and who subsequently would receive quality, timely and appropriate care.

What did the network development process look like?

Over the span of a year and a half, a unique, iterative development process linked and connected innovative ideas and people to prepare complete pan-Canadian network proposals, and ultimately, selected one to fund. This process included three phases:

  • Phase I: Expressions of Interest and Strengthening Workshop
  • Phase II: Letters of Intent
  • Phase III: Full proposals

Who was eligible to apply to this call for Expressions of Interest?

Expressions of Interest could come from two kinds of participant groups:

  1. Proponents of a nascent proposal for a full pan-Canadian research-to-practice network
  2. Teams which could become part of a pan-Canadian research-to-practice network

All Expressions of Interest had to include active participation from stakeholders with a direct interest in the mental health needs of 11-25 years olds, including:

  1. patients/family representatives;
  2. policy makers;
  3. researchers;
  4. service providers;
  5. community organizations, and other stakeholders as appropriate.

While leadership could come from any stakeholder group, co-leadership models were encouraged.

What happened at each phase?

In Phase I, the intent was to identify the key groups, resources and ideas which would be important components of a pan-Canadian network. The intent was to ensure that great ideas and teams all would have a chance to participate in the Network development process, even if they were not yet integrated into a pan-Canadian network. In Phase I, participants were applying to partake in a network development process, not for traditional grant funding. A total of 54 Expressions of Interest were reviewed by the collaborating selection panel.

The leadership of the 17 applicant groups making proposals that were selected through the Expression of Interest were required to participate in the TRAM Strengthening Workshop, held June 26-28, 2013.

In Phase II, groups that had grown through the strengthening workshop were asked to submit Letters of Intent indicating their plans to form a pan-Canadian network. The collaborating selection panel offered feedback and gave three teams $25,000 each in development grants to work on their proposals.

In Phase III, the three aspiring networks presented their full proposals. The collaborating selection panel chose ACCESS Open Minds to receive the full TRAM grant.

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