In UK policy, there is an increased focus on preventing “non-clinical” use of primary care for those with non-medical need such as loneliness and social isolation. Social prescribing has been positioned as a preventative measure that can address these needs and empower individuals to self-manage. This has, arguably, stretched the resources of the third sector, as more clients are referred into their services. In the context of Covid-19, social prescribing services and the third sector have had to rethink their service delivery.
Policy research has made use of the three fundamental knowledge types identified by Aristotle; empirical knowledge, technical or craft knowledge, and practical wisdom or phronesis, to understand policy decision-making. Phronesis, arguably the most complex of the three, is used when weighing up alternatives and making judgements based on what is most beneficial and just in any given situation. Flyvbjerg (2001), Ward (2017) and Bynner and Terje (2020) argue for the importance of phronesis when tackling complex issues relating to inequalities. Conroy et al (2018) also studied the use of phronesis among GPs and consultants in medical decision-making.
This paper explores how community navigators (working for the mPower Interreg VA social prescribing project in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland) use phronesis to meet needs of beneficiaries during Covid-19, where social activities they normally refer beneficiaries to may not be available. It demonstrates the complex skill set of those working on the ground in continuing to support those most vulnerable, and the long-term lessons that can be learnt from this.


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Terje, A. 2021, 'The use of phronesis in social prescribing during Covid-19', BSA Annual Conference 2021: Remaking the Future. https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/publications/the-use-of-phronesis-in-social-prescribing-during-covid-19

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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