This session explored:
- How implementation is supporting impact within academia, government, and non-profit organisations.
- The importance of understanding change.
- Where the different sectors are in their understanding and use of implementation for impact.
- How a government department has developed and implemented an impact framework for research.
Many researchers worldwide are required to assess their research impact. Therefore, there is an ever-growing need to create opportunities for impact through effective skill building, planning, and implementation of new knowledge into practice for impact to be realised. Not all strategies are equal, and there have been many learnings in what works and what doesn’t work. The goal of this session is to explore the practicalities of how we get to impact. To do this, our three guest presenters will discuss their experiences, learnings and what they have seen to be most effective. This facilitated panel discussion will draw out common mistakes and lessons learned to help others avoid common issues and successfully optimise their own implementation activities.
Summary of Themes
Social licence to operate and openness and capacity for evidence-informed decision-making needed by organisations to achieve impact
- Theory of change is a vital step in improving an organisation’s impact
Clear and commonly understood research problems to be identified to focus research scope and ensure relevant and usable solutions
- Setting research priorities collaboratively (researchers, community stakeholders, funders) is especially important. The relationship needs to be a respectful bringing together of knowledge that tends to be experiential and shorter-term, and knowledge that is research evidence-based and longer term. Unless recognised and mitigated against, the power imbalance in a funder/provider relationship may inhibit the open exchange of ideas needed to optimise these dialogues
Quality relationships trumps all
- Building relationships between decision-makers and researchers is key; but we still don’t know the best way to do that, or at the level in the system that this can best occur eg national, state, sector, individual collaborative partnership
- Work with stakeholders essential – can be to assist them to have an evidence-base for their position, or can be to draw them into a community of practice around a research program
- Engagement plans can strengthen delivery – recognising the valuable role boundary organisations, teams and individuals play in the uptake and adoption of solutions, as well as identification and involvement of key beneficiaries and other periphery stakeholders in the research planning
Impact planning is essential
- In order to successfully understand the breadth of the problem being addressed, as well as identifying what is seen as “value” by stakeholders across the research value chain
- Tracking critical pathways is key – identifying and tracking the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes essential to deliver impact is a necessary step in the impact planning process. The critical pathway provides a team with clear investment guidelines and/or scope in order to remain.
- Implementation science is helping to achieve impact, but is still in the early stages, and does not yet recognise complexity, or address the issue of gaining commitment to effective implementation and achieving impact
- Ideas from organisation and management on change prevail (not surprisingly), in terms of commitment to evidence-informed work, measuring and achieving impact. It requires leadership and engagement of workforce and other stakeholders
- Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CIFR) mentioned several times as useful
Conclusion on state of play in Australia
- Academic community is embracing the need to consider impact, not just research outcomes (varies greatly from institution to institution) but willingness of government departments, business and NFP to consider impact in an evidence-informed way is still in its infancy in Australia compared to the UK.