Event: ESRC-DFID Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research (RLO) Programme Grant holders workshop


30 - 31 January 2017

A two-day workshop hosted by DFID, ESRC and the Impact Initiative for Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research (RLO) grant holders provided a welcome opportunity for researchers to meet, build networks, explore opportunities for scientific collaboration and share approaches and obstacles when considering pathways to impact.

Education is one of eight distinct themes around which the Impact Initiative organises capacity building and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Of 37 education projects in 17 countries jointly funded by the ESRC and DFID, 19 are supported by the RLO programme.

The £20 million RLO programme aims to generate world-class social science research that addresses key questions on learning outcomes within education systems in developing countries drawing from top-level themes of educational quality, finance and governance and high education (you can look at the different projects, their locations and the themes they cover here. It hopes to provide policymakers and practitioners with concrete ideas that can be translated to their specific contexts and institutions. RLO grant holders are expected therefore to develop pathways to impact from the onset; demonstrating what they intend to do during their research to enable impact in various forms. 

Of course, the road to achieving impact is not an easy one and requires a broad range of tools and approaches that is steadily expanding as new communication formats become more mainstream. By facilitating discussions on the challenges involved in effective research communication; and by providing practical support sessions – important discussions were (re)ignited at the event on the best strategies for engaging non-academic audiences and engaging in the policy process.

The key talking points

There was widespread commitment amongst the researchers to demonstrating impact. However, some felt it was a difficult one to deliver on. And results from a brief survey conducted during the workshop confirmed many of the well-known barriers to engagement and uptake in areas like building relationships with key stakeholders, connecting with other researchers and confidence in communicating with a wide range of audiences. 

Following Day 1 - where researchers gave overviews of their projects - groups then shared their own impact approaches and experiences, and were invited to attend practical support sessions provided by the Impact Initiative team on how to engage, network and communicate with non-academic audiences and key stakeholders.

The four practical support sessions were:

  • Writing for Policy Audiences
  • Stakeholder Mapping tools for Policy Enagagement
  • Turning Complex Information in the perfect elevator pitch
  • Tips on Blogging 


The following factors were raised consistently by all groups as important aspects of making progress towards impact:

  • how region specific networking is crucial for “high level” relationship building
  • the importance of using knowledge-brokers (such as communications, media and marketing professionals) to help develop a strategic communications approach
  • the need for a greater understanding of how communication between researchers and policy makers really happens
  • the challenges in communicating with the end-users and beneficiaries of research (read Uganda-based grant holder Victoria Brown’s insight here on her top tips of how to approach this)
  • And finally, how to best manage relationships and expectations throughout the research process


Results from a post-event evaluation found that many participants had made new and relevant connections and had found it helpful to share knowledge and learnings from their individual project’s pathways to impact. Via the practical support sessions offered by the Impact Initiative, grantees were equipped with solid and practical examples on how to promote impact happenings. 


Delivering the perfect elevator pitch from The Impact Initiative



Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research (RLO) Programme workshop

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Tofaris, ejar2@cam.ac.uk