Impact Practitioners

Our R2A Impact Practitioners Journey

By and 22/02/2024

They say ‘time flies’ and, as we reflect on the 18 months that have passed since we launched the Impact Practitioners initiative, we have to agree! 

The inspiration for the repository was an assignment carried out by CommsConsult in 2021 for UNICEF’’s office of Research, Innocenti. They wanted help in reviewing the way that they assessed the impact of their ambitious portfolio of research. Once we started looking for resources that might be helpful, we realised that there were literally hundreds. Even those of us who work in this space were taken aback by what an Aladdin’s Cave we had found! 

Our first instinct was then: let’s share!

R2A categorised the ‘best of’ the many guides, toolkits, handbooks into ten main categories, and summarised each one for weekly publication. They have been very popular. As we embark on the second phase of Impact Practitioners, we wanted to share some of our reflections on the first phase. We recognise the importance of building on the feedback and observations from our community and to keep improving on what we do! 

In total, we posted summaries of 40 impact resources. Thirteen focused on frameworks for implementing effective knowledge broker strategies. Others described how to overcome barriers to research uptake; how to foster community engagement in research; and exploring ethical considerations in impact assessment. 

The resources quickly turned up in our Research to Action ‘Top Ten’ reads: a sign that you are all still interested in and grappling with how to evidence the impact of your research. ‘How To’ resources with a very practical style tended to be most popular, with frameworks and resources explaining how to design and use indicators having particularly high page views. Large audiences came from Spain, Germany, and the UK. 

The initiative’s next phase is set to include the return of our well-received resources, alongside an emphasis on addressing new challenges and adopting innovative methodologies in research impact. Our aim is to broaden the scope of our support, delving into areas that have emerged as pivotal in the ever-evolving landscape of research application. Our commitment remains to provide support and knowledge to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers looking to increase the reach and utility of their findings.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s on the horizon!

Overcoming barriers to research uptake

Why undertake research if it isn’t going to be used to inform and bring about change?  This is its primary goal. Research uptake isn’t always easy to achieve, but there are things you can do to maximise its visibility and utility.  The upcoming batch of Impact Practitioner resources will help you to transform knowledge into action, and to both develop and implement your research uptake plan.

Some new topics to look out for

Impact Practitioners has been keeping up with the fresh perspectives emerging in the research to action field. We note four specifically.

First, co-production is more than a growing trend —it’s a paradigm shift that requires researchers, practitioners and the community at large to collaborate in the research process, from inception to implementation. Co-production embraces diversity and the equitable sharing of power, all in the name of building a trusting relationship between researchers and the public and ensuring impact through relevant and practical research.

Second, research – and development research especially – is facing increasing criticism for being ‘top-down’ and detached from the realities of communities it seeks to help. A number of the resources we share therefore recommend familiarising with the significance of local ownership and practice. We shed light on how placing communities at the heart of the research process and rooting it in their lived experiences will lead to more effective, sustainable, and empowering initiatives.

Third, in the pursuit of impact, ethical considerations must never be sidelined. Especially when regarding people’s wellbeing and health, assessing research impact brings with it moral dilemmas and responsibilities. A number of selected resources address and explore questions of power, both during the research design process, and up to and including impact assessment.

Fourth, although it sounds like a buzzword, knowledge brokering is actually one of the most important ways we can maximise our impact. Picture this:  your research has discovered something groundbreaking that you want people to know about and use, but it’s scientific and buried in academic jargon. Enter knowledge brokering, the skill of translating and disseminating research in an accessible and practical way. Whether you want to reach the ‘average person’ or influence policymakers, knowledge brokering is a skill worth improving.

As we embark on this relaunch, we have a handful of favours to ask of you. First, which resources do you find most useful? Any discoveries that have transformed your understanding of how to monitor and track your own impact? Tell us what’s your favourite and why.

Second, let us know what we’ve missed! Are there ‘Go To’ resources that you and your colleagues use to track your impact and tell its story?‘ Where are the gaps? What types of resources do you wish we’d found and included? PLEASE TELL US!

Third, tell us about your examples of impact – achieved and made visible with or without the Impact Practitioner resources! However small and surprising, please inspire our community with all the ways in which you feel your research has made a difference in the world. Our mission is to help you to bridge the research to action gap – so we’d love to hear all about it! Use the hashtag #R2AImpactPractitioners #researchimpact on social media and tag us so that we can share the joy.

Our first resource from our relaunch looks at a 9-page article from BMJ Global health, looking at the importance of making sure we follow the right ethical rules when collecting data about sensitive topics after the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be released on World Day of Social Justice.

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