Evaluating Our Impact
Determining and measuring impact is inherently challenging. How does one know that change has happened as a result of research? Understanding research impact is a growing area of scholarship, which helps us not only understand if change has happened, but how it happens. In doing so we need to think about the difference between attribution and contribution. Attribution suggests that we can demonstrate that a change has occurred as a direct result of research. The trouble is that in the real world, there are many factors that may have contributed to a change happening of which research is but one. In such a case we refer to the contribution of research to impact, rather than the attribution.
As part of our work, we are conducting an evaluation of the impact of our work to identify if change has really happened. Additionally this program of research will contribute to the continuous quality improvement of our work through enabling us to better understand how to more effectively mobilize knowledge. Doing this kind of research well requires a mixed methods approach, involving quantitative and qualitative measures, and specific methods such as case studies. Understanding impact requires long term research, as we know from implementation science that it can be 2-4 years after the research has been completed before it is taken up and applied in new contexts.