Impact Practitioners

Designing research uptake strategy: four areas to consider

By 01/06/2023

This 12-page guidance note, originally produced for research projects funded through Elrha, provides information on developing a research uptake strategy. The resource is based on uptake recommendations by the UK Department for International Development (DFID, now part of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office).

The guidance note can help you design a clear and achievable uptake plan for your research project. It will enable your stakeholders to easily access your evidence, understand it, trust it and apply it to policy or practice. 

The guidance note breaks research uptake into four strands. These strands are:

1/ Stakeholder engagement,

2/ Capacity building,

3/ Communication,

4/ Monitoring and Evaluation.


  1. Stakeholder engagement

If you want to influence stakeholders, prepare high-quality evidence, tell powerful stories and build strong relationships. The Elrha note gives recommendations on stakeholder mapping, tailoring research to stakeholders’ needs and evidence and learning. 

It highlights the importance of keeping stakeholders engaged throughout the research project. For example, Elrha advises researchers to invite stakeholders to join their advisory teams, attend information sessions and meetings, and use social media.


    2.  Capacity building

Capacity building needs to be considered both internally (i.e. you and your project team) and externally (consultants, partners, stakeholders). You should assess existing capacity at the start of the project and work towards strengthening it with tailored, well-planned and relevant capacity-building activities. 


    3. Communication

A good communication strategy is key to the uptake and distribution of your research findings. The guidance note advises planning communication activities during the project design stage. For example, you can think about publishing in journals, plan for community meetings and schedule future government briefings. Try to look for “windows of opportunity” when stakeholders might be particularly interested in discussing your research evidence and its implications. 


    4. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

For monitoring purposes, the guidance note encourages researchers to create a set of key indicators, targets and milestones. They will inform you about the effectiveness and progress of your uptake strategy. Be realistic about the goals and impacts you would like to see and be clear about how and when you will measure them, count them and report on them. 

Evaluating research projects can be challenging due to the possible time lag between the project completion and uptake, and the difficulty of attributing your research to the impacts. 

However, the guidance note argues that it is necessary to evaluate uptake strategies so that you can better understand how and when evidence contributes to a change. Sometimes, your anticipated results might not occur because of factors out of your control while other times, your project might have unexpected impacts.


Apart from the general advice on research uptake, the Elrha document also provides readers with a useful checklist and two practical appendix sections. The first one features links to further reading, tools and tips. The second appendix section lists example activities and tools for stakeholder mapping and developing a log frame.

In summary, the guidance note can help you develop an uptake strategy for your research project. It covers four main areas: stakeholder engagement, capacity building, communication and M&E. 


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


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