Impact Practitioners

The importance of partnerships for achieving impact

By 15/12/2022

This 16-page academic paper written by Sarah Morton focuses on the role of research partnerships in creating impact. It describes three case studies in which non-academic impact is achieved by partnered research users, who engage with research findings from their unique perspectives. All three examples stem from a partnership between two Scottish organisations, the ChildLine Scotland (CLS) charity – the research user – and the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) – the research producer. Morton’s article is a great starting point for learning about the importance of networking, relationship-building and partnering for research impact.

The first case study looks at research impacts on Scottish alcohol policy. The crucial element for achieving the impact is the CRFR’s partnering and networking with CLS. The CLS charity picks up CRFR’s research findings, re-uses and re-works them and most importantly, brings them to policy meetings. These activities by CLS even lead to the commissioning of further research by a key policy-influencing group.

The second case study analyses the research impact on sex education. In this example, research is taken up quickly because it is anticipated (due to prior networking between CLS and policy officers). The research is timely and relevant for practitioners, and the research findings fit into their work. Additionally, one organisation uses the research findings in their training sessions for parents, in which they transform the evidence into a memorable quiz. This helps to spread the research evidence even further. As in the alcohol policy example, research users re-work and adapt the research findings to fit the needs of their specific context.

The third example focuses on the impact research has on CLS’s practise, specifically the way CLS takes calls from children and young people. In this instance, CLS combines research findings with their own experience to improve their service. The organisation establishes a working group and eventually develops specific training and guidelines, which improve the way calls are taken. Again, the research is re-worked to fit a specific context and situation.

Overall, these examples show that partnerships with research users help you create more immediate uptake and impact. It also proves that research users are not just passive recipients of findings – instead, they engage with research from their own perspective, and their networks are additional channels through which research is communicated, utilised and developed. In other words, the impact cannot be achieved by the researchers alone. The activities that lead to impact in the three examples are all created by partnered research users – that is research users who play a collaborative and partnership role with the researchers – all of whom have a deep understanding of the context. 

In conclusion, working closely with research users can help you create relevant, timely research that will be taken up and used in practice. Research users have an understanding of the context in which they operate, they adapt research to suit the specific needs of that context, and they are often committed to using research to make a difference.

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

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