Envisioning, Planning and Evidencing Impact

To be able to plan for impact you need to be clear on the destination i.e. “What is the impact you hope and want your research to generate?”. This is analogous to thinking about the methodology – you only do this when you are clear about the research questions you want to answer. It is also sensible for that destination to align with your values and motivations. That is why there is both a “want” as well as a “hope” in the question. If you do this you will be motivated both by the research itself (I am assuming you are going to do research you are interested in and sparks your curiosity) and the impact it will lead to.

Envisioning Impact

Pursue the impact you care about

Impact is delivered through relationships and these are built on trust. It also requires effort and dedication. If you are trying to achieve impact that doesn’t motivate you, then you are unlikely to gain the trust of those external stakeholders or have the dedication to see things through. We discuss this further on our definitions page.

Questions to help you start

Professor Mark Reed has created a series of questions to help people to envision their potential impact (from his research on how impact occurs). He talks about them in the Second Episode of his podcast. They are also described in Part 2 Step 1 of his book The Research Impact Handbook.

Stakeholder analysis

Mark has also done lots of work on applying stakeholder analysis techniques to impact. His introductory guide is a great start. The first chapter in Part 3 of his book also discusses this. He has also produced an advanced guide that develops these ideas further.

REF2014 Impact Case Study Database

All of the case studies submitted to REF2014 (except a small number of commercially sensitive ones) are available in a database of existing case studies. These give you an amazing array of suggestions of the sort of impact that has arisen from research. You will probably find a case study that has emerged from research that has some similarities to yours. You can also see what the impact profile for the submitting Unit of Assessment via the REF2014 website. The impact case studies submitted to REF2021 will also be made available as a searchable database after the results are published in 2022.

Impact Planning

University College Dublin’s Impact Planning Canvas

UCD’s Impact Planning Canvas is a really simple application of the Business Model Canvas to Impact. On the link there is a YouTube explanation of how to use the Canvas and then a more detailed document to work through once you have completed the Canvas. There are also some example Canvases from their research portfolio.

Fast Track Impact’s Impact Guides and Resources

There are loads of materials (podcasts, templates and guides) on Fast Track Impact’s website. These resources are focused on helping you to plan for impact.

Evidencing Impact

Mark Reid’s compendium of resources for evidencing

As part of his suite of podcasts, templates and guides relating to impact, Mark has compiled a large amount of material for evaluating impact.

Recording and evidencing policy impact

Great resource from University of Cambridge on recording and evidencing policy impact.

Economics and Social Science Research Council’s Impact Toolkit

This has a section on measuring success. The key aspect is starting from a clear set of aims and objectives.

Logic models

Lots of evaluation methodologies are built on logic models. For a short description try this one on the AHRC’s website.

Evaluating public engagement

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement has loads of resources and case studies to help you. There are some really simple resources under the Evaluating Resources menu item. Examples include a simple toolkit under the ‘Evaluating Public Engagement Activities’ tab and another about working with museums etc under ‘Evaluating Social Impact’

The NCCPE, Queen Mary University and Professor Mark Reed published a framework for the evaluation of public engagement in January 2018. Full text available.