Last week, a two-day workshop hosted by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), the Department for International Development and the Impact Initiative for Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research (RLO) provided the opportunity for researchers to meet, build networks, explore opportunities for collaboration and share approaches and obstacles when considering pathways to impact and research dissemination.
The Economic and Social Research Council UK (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) fund the £20 million Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research (RLO) which aims to understand the factors that constrain or facilitate learning in educational systems in developing countries. The programme consists of a portfolio of 31 research projects of which 29 remain active, and the principal investigators of which are located in many countries across the world.
Better learning for all
The key focus of the RLO Research Programme is on raising learning outcomes for all; but given the large numbers of children still not in school and the significant discrimination faced by different social groups who do receive an education, a robust approach to researching what works to deliver better learning for all should include a deliberate focus on these issues.
Day 1 of the workshop provided the 40 delegates (from countries including Australia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger,South Africa, Uganda, as well as the UK and the United States) with the opportunity to discuss the importance of a systems-approach to researching issues of marginalisation and discrimination in education. Grant holders also discussed how to better develop a common narrative to draw attention to inequality in education; and develop methodologies, intervention strategies, and persuasive policy influencing mechanisms for achieving equity and inclusivity in learning outcomes.
On Day 2, discussions were facilitated on the challenges involved in effective research communication; and by providing practical support sessions on the best strategies for engaging non-academic audiences and identifying the needs and priorities of (potential) non-academic users of the ESRC-DFID research with respect to equity and inclusivity.
Day 2: The sessions
1. How to tailor communications to non-academic audiences, and developing the perfect elevator pitch
This session sought to establish why it is useful to be able to describe research projects and research impact in a short and accessible way to non-academic audiences. Each project/participant delivered elevator pitches to non-academic table hosts from DFID and Save the Children who provided honest feedback on language, style and delivery. Download the presentation here.
2. Practical support sessions
How to give a TED talk
TED talks are a popular presentation format so this session explored their unique format and how to use storytelling as a means to convey messages. The session looked at why researchers should consider ‘talking the Ted Talk’ and encouraged grant holders to develop their own using real examples, stories and facts. Dowload the session handout:
Writing policy briefs
Writing effective policy briefs requires a specific set of communication skills so delegates focused on looking at real-life examples and how to write a policy brief to convey their own scientific evidence for policy and practice. Download the presentation here.
This session identified some basic rules on using narrative to promote evidence and impact; with a particular focus on the structure and character of key Impact Initiative outputs for non-academic audiences: 1) Impact Stories 2) Research to Policy and Practice papers (R4PP). Grant holders were encouraged to consider how their projects / findings/ impact would be used in these formats. Download the presentation here.
3. Group Discussions: How can evidence inform policy and practice to ensure inclusive and equitable education for all?
This interactive session brought together research users, development agencies and grant holders to discuss the role of research in contributing to change, and what the barriers and opportunities are in encouraging the uptake of research, asking the following questions:
Table 1: What are some of the key opportunities for evidence and research to contribute to achieving inclusive and equitable education for all?
Table 2: How can researchers and research-users create a more enabling environment for knowledge and learning to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all?Table 3: Which kinds of sources of evidence seem the most effective in achieving impact at scale?
Effective research communication: Key take-away messages
Common threads raised as important aspects of communicating with non-academic audiences were raised throughout the day. Amongst these include:
- The need for a greater understanding of how communication between researchers and policy makers really happens, including the role of intermediaries.
- The importance of considering different audiences for communication, including teachers and parents, and recognising different ways of communicating to different audiences.
- The importance of gathering evidence of impact to support telling compelling narratives about research. This can include quantitative evidence, such as number of number of policymakers reached, as well as qualitative evidence, such as in the form of testimonials of key beneficiaries, such as those engaged in policy, teachers etc.
How the Impact Initiative can support you
The Impact Initiative exists to connect policy makers and practitioners with the world class social science research supported by the ESRC-DFID Strategic partnership. We work directly with grantholders of The Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research, and The Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Programmes. We seek to identify synergies between these programmes and their grant holders, support them to exploit influencing and engagement opportunities, and facilitate learning.
The Impact Initiative has resources to support:
- Capacity building sessions around engaging with non-academic audiences such as development of impact plans and media training. Check out our Impact Lab resources.
- The facilitation of meetings between researchers and research users such as interactions with INGOs, DFID, in-country policy actors and civil society organisations.
- The organisation of policy orientated events that promote evidence emerging from the ESRC DFID portfolio.
- Showcasing your research to non-academic audiences with the co-production and targeted dissemination of tailored outputs including impact stories, blogs, policy briefings and multimedia.
- The archiving of the full text of your research outputs in an open access repository to maximise their accessibility. The Impact Initiative open access repository collection has already received 27,000 downloads.
For further information about this event or if would like more information on how we can help you maximise the impact of your research, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org