This 4-page case study written by Sarah Morton and Jennie Flemming introduces the Research Contribution Framework (RCF) for impact evaluation and applies the method to a participatory research project aiming to de-institutionalise childcare in Ukraine. RCF is a method based on contribution analysis in which you follow a set of steps to tell a story of how your research was used to contribute to a change.
The RCF method breaks the impact into three processes: research uptake -> research use -> research impact. Your goal is to trace impact through these three levels and find relevant evidence proving that change happened and can be linked to your research.
Firstly, you focus on the uptake of your research. In this step, you look at what engagement activities you have organised (such as training courses, lectures, discussions and so on), who have participated in them and why. This step proves that research users knew about your research and interacted with it, for example by reading a briefing, coming to a presentation or participating as a partner.
The second step is the evaluation of the use of your research by examining the changes in awareness, knowledge, skills and capacities. In other words, you describe how research users acted upon the information they learned from your research and how they felt. For instance, they might use it to inform policy, discuss it, adapt it to their context or pass it on.
The final phase in the RCF is the assessment of impact in which you focus on the changes in behaviour, policy and practice and analyse the final longer-term contribution of your work.
It’s worth mentioning that the RCF focuses on research contribution, i.e. the idea that research on its own cannot drive change. However, it can contribute to it via interactions and dialogue with practitioners, organisations, policy-makers, media and the general public. You should therefore perceive research users not as passive recipients of knowledge but as active users who engage with research from their own perspective.
Lastly, when evaluating the impact of your research, bear in mind contextual factors such as political agendas or the involvement of other people and agencies, which might limit the contribution of your research.
If this framework sounds like the perfect one for assessing your research impact, we strongly recommend reading the case study to see how it can be applied to a real-life research project.
This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.