Developing an approach to Impact Developing an approach to Impact

It is best to start considering Impact and engagement activities during the planning stage of your project, or as early as possible. This allows you to build activities into your project lifecycle, develop opportunities for two-way engagement and to seek funding to support your activities. Impacts typically require engagement activities in order to achieve uptake, communication and influence. The vast majority of impact activities fall under the term ‘engagement’ which encompasses a wide range of audiences and publics from businesses, charities, governments, health sectors, and specific groups of the general public. It is necessary to use different approaches and methods to communicate and interact with your target audience, so how do you start to plan this? One way is to think about your motivations or potential end-goals in order to identify audiences and routes for communication. Prompts to help you to start planning are provided below.

Storyline Enlightenment and empathy Social innovation Social action

Making the research:

  • Meaningful
  • Persuasive 

Making the research:

  • Relevant
  • Practical

Making the research:

  • Motivating 
  • Useful
What's the motivation?
  • Stimulating learning and reflection
  • Influencing public debate
  • Changing understandings
  • Challenging conventional wisdom
  • Challenging professional orthodoxies
  • Fostering empathy
  • Changing standards/ regulation
  • Changing accountability regimes
  • Influencing new products and services
  • Changing policies
  • Changing planning processes
  • Influencing decision making
  • Influencing the public realm
  • Inspiring participation and progression, e.g. influencing career choices of young people
  • Teaching new skills 
  • Changing behaviours, including participation and involvement
  • Influencing practitioner and policy makers' behaviour/ practice/ standards
  • Fostering collaboration
  • Building networks
What's the method?
  • Media
  • Websites
  • Debates
  • Databases/ archives
  • Social media
  • Publications
  • Performances
  • Exhibitions
  • Presentations
  • Festivals
  • Consultation
  • Dialogues
  • Co-design or co-production
  • Advisory groups
  • Co-production
  • Outreach
  • Education
  • Lifelong learning
  • Network-building
  • Training and development etc
What's the pay off?

Enlightenment: Inspiring wonder, curiosity, learning; meaning-making; empathy

Criticism: provoking challenge, scrutiny & debate; holding to account

Innovation: new ways of thinking & acting; new products and knowledge; creating; galvanising change

Reflexivity: prompting dialogue & deliberation; exploring risk; informing decision making

Connectivity: building networks; encouraging participation & involvement

Capability: building skills; influencing behaviours and practices; empowering

Type of Impact Conceptual Instrumental Capacity Building
Examples of Impact indicators
  • Challenge conventional wisdom
  • Challenge professional orthodoxies
  • Change understandings
  • Stimulate learning and reflection
  • Influence public debate
  • Change standards/ regulation
  • Change accountability regimes
  • Instrumental new products and services
  • Change policies
  • Change planning processes
  • Influence the public realm
  • Inspire participation and progression
  • Teach new skills
  • Change behaviours, including participation and involvement
  • Influence practitioner and policy makers' behaviour/ practice/ standards
  • Foster collaboration

Adapted from NCCPE's Lessons from the REF training 


For more resources on how to develop impact from your research please use the left hand menu to access more information on planning for impact, policy, public engagement, social media, and writing for non-specialist audiences.