Impact Practitioners

Nine lessons for successful research uptake from ‘What Works’ programme

By 22/12/2022

This 12-page academic paper reflects on research uptake approaches used by the multi-country What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls Programme (What Works) and highlights nine key strategies for effective research uptake (RU). The What Works programme developed its own RU strategy to suit its specific needs to influence different stakeholders and policy environments across 16 countries in Africa and Asia. But their recommended strategies can be replicated in any development programme. 

Firstly, the paper advises thorough planning for RU from the early stages and basing the strategy on the goals and stakeholders identified in your theory of change. Identify key stakeholders on both country and global levels and think about their potential barriers to RU. 

Make sure your strategy is evolving and flexible, allowing you to respond to new opportunities that might come up. Communications play a central role in this, so prepare the messaging in advance, but be ready to adapt it over time. Be responsive to the news agenda and always think about the ways a particular story advances the bigger picture. The messages and tools you use need to be tailored to your audiences so that you are creating strong, impactful content. But don’t forget to carefully analyse your messaging, particularly around sensitive issues as they might cause more harm than good. 

For effective RU, you need a strong capacity development platform for your partners and stakeholders so that they are prepared to absorb new knowledge and use and interpret your research findings. This will help you drive up the impact of your research. 

You should focus on achieving impact on all levels, from local to global. Try to be realistic in your assessment of success in given timeframes. Policy shifts rarely happen in the timeframe of programmes even though they are widely used as measurements of success. However, you should rather focus on assessing the more granular, complex and dynamic processes leading to successful RU. 

Finally, RU is a considerable investment that requires resources and staff time. What Works recommends spending about 10% of your programme budget on RU as costs are likely to be much higher than you originally plan for. 

To sum up, the What Works programme recommends an agile and flexible approach to research uptake, which is guided by the theory of change, with evolving key messages and a strong communication plan, underpinned by capacity development and properly resourced, planned and monitored. Using these nine strategies will maximise the likelihood of your research being translated into policy and practice.

This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.

Get 'New Post' e-alerts and follow R2A

Contribute to R2A:
We welcome blogposts, news about jobs, events or funding, and recommendations for great resources about development communications and research uptake.