Making an Impact Series

The Making an Impact series has been designed around a framework of Knowledge Exchange  ‘lenses’, on impact in cultural, health science, public policy, economic, industrial, digital, environmental and third sectors. The KirkPatrick model of evaluation assesses long term outcomes and feeds into programme design.

Equity, accessibility and inclusivity is central to the Series, which provides a mixture of live sessions delivered by internal and external experts across research-related academic, administrative and industry stakeholder roles, augmented with asynchronous materials on a dedicated Resource Hub.

The Series plays a significant role in creating new connections, impactful collaboration and a culture of innovation.

What kind of an organisation are you in the context of the Concordat?

Research university

What challenge were you trying to address with this initiative?

The Making an Impact series was developed to provide researchers and research related staff across all career stages and disciplines with access to development activities focused around research impact and knowledge exchange.

It was designed as a series of connected activities on topics around the Industrial Strategy priorities to support University of Liverpool staff, post docs and ECRs in particular, to develop their multi-disciplinary research-impact related knowledge, skills, attributes and competencies. The series focuses on four of the five foundations of the Industrial Strategy:

  • Ideas: encouraging University of Liverpool staff to explore innovative ideas and solutions in relation to the impact of their research. 
  • Skills: ensuring participants develop and reflect on skills that will enable their greater contribution to the impact agenda. 
  • Business environment: supporting participants’ ideas around IP and commercialising their research.
  • Communities: enhancing the capabilities and impact of multi-disciplinary researchers who advance the communities within which they are based, and the wider UK populace.

What did you do and how does this align with the Principles and keywords you have selected below?

Since 2018, a programme of events has been organised to take place during May/June annually over approximately a 4 week period which includes between 55-60 live sessions The sessions involve both internal and external facilitators and are delivered through a variety of formats, including keynotes, panel discussions, facility tours, interactive workshops and 1:1 career consultations.

The Making an Impact series has been designed around a framework of Knowledge Exchange  ‘lenses’, on impact in cultural, health science, public policy, economic, industrial, digital, environmental and third sectors. All sessions are mapped against these lenses which are indicated on the programme so that participants can tailor their own engagement dependant on the areas in which they wish to focus. As most sessions map against multiple lenses, researchers are not limited to or focused on one area but can branch out and observe that development activities of interest to them could provide impact in a broader setting.

As well as the Making an Impact Framework outlined above, all sessions are also mapped against the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to enable research staff, in particular, the talent pipeline of ECRs to explore all aspects of being a researcher; identify their strengths; prioritise areas for professional development; and have productive career development discussions with their managers and/or mentors.

Each year registrations have grown with over 800 participants from 30 separate institutions engaging with the series in 2021. With representation across all faculties (28% Health and Life Science, 27% Science and Engineering, 25% Humanities and Social Sciences and 13% Professional services) and career stages.

In 2021, over 25 days of live sessions, 70 internal champions and 50 external experts across research-related academic and industry stakeholder roles, led participants in approximately 15,000 hours of live Knowledge Exchange development activities, augmented with asynchronous materials on a dedicated Resource Hub.

The series always involves sessions that give advice and insight into careers outside of academia, leadership skills, engaging with policy makers, civic engagement and many aspects of knowledge exchange.  Podcasts are recorded on key topics included in the programme and are released during the series.

Enhanced communication and engagement with participants are achieved by weekly Twitter competitions, Tweet chats and Gif awards. Participants are encouraged to tweet about each session they attend, and tweet chats have been incorporated into the programme around specific sessions and continued the learning of those sessions by involving the facilitator in the discussions.  The Gif awards in particular are very well received and generate further conversations and threads regarding the learning and development Making an Impact has provided as well as acknowledging and thanking the support and engagement of staff members empowering them to continue sharing tips and insights they have gained during the event.

What were the challenges in implementation and how did you resolve them?

Making sure the series is as accessible as possible (including during a global pandemic) and in particular for online sessions making sure networking opportunities were available were the biggest challenges.

Networking has always been an important part of the Making an Impact series, which of course was more difficult to achieve during the pandemic, however a channel on Microsoft Teams was made available for all those that attended any of the Making an Impact sessions to continue conversations, chat informally, network and make connections. From this two separate discussion groups were set up by some of the participants of sessions. These formed micro communities of practice in impactful leadership and blogging for your research, wherein participants shared examples of effective practice.

All participants that register for any Making an Impact session were also sent a link to a specific Kumospace “space”. A virtual space that has rich illustrations and interactive environments to help facilitate engagement that feels informal and close to what you would experience when sharing the same physical space. A networking session every week during the series using Kumospace was included in the programme for people to meet.

Ensuring sessions took place during working hours that were mindful of those with caring responsibilities and that the length and format of each session was considerate to the working environment especially with online sessions.

The programme was designed so that it was flexible and diverse and included a rich bank of ‘living’ resources which supported sessions delivered live that could be accessed by participants at a time and place that suited them and that remain available beyond the series.

As many sessions as possible were also recorded and made available as quickly as possible on our researcher hub, for those that couldn’t attend the live session or wanted to revisit the session.

How did you evaluate the impact of your initiative?

The development impact of the Making an Impact series is evaluated using the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation (Kirkpatrick, 2009). The model constitutes “four levels” of evaluation for measuring the effectiveness of development activity. These four levels of evaluation – Reaction (Level 1), Learning (Level 2), Behaviour (Level 3), and Results: Organisational Performance (Level 4) – consist of building ‘a chain of evidence’.

Participants are requested to complete a survey at the end of each session, which includes questions on the overall design and delivery of the sessions as well as what actions participants will take as a result of attending a session(s). Feedback is extremely positive with on average over 85% of participants indicating that the sessions met their expectations and 90% affirmed that the sessions were useful to their future needs/career plans.

All Making an Impact participants are contacted again with a 6-month post-evaluation survey which feeds into planning of the series the following year. The post session evaluation also continues to assess long term outcomes by asking how engagement with previous series have changed research practice.

Feedback from this survey has demonstrated how engaging with development activities as part of the Making an Impact Series have been implemented to enhance practice and drive the participants research impacts needs and ambitions. (Participant testimony below, Early Career Researcher at the University of Liverpool).

“It provided me and my practice with a robust framework that has crystallised what I learnt organically but couldn't articulate so clearly. This enables me to evaluate industry partnerships and bridge the cultural gaps better. I have shared my learning with colleagues.”

What advice would you give others wanting to do this?

Reach out to your research community (and if possible bring together a steering committee of colleagues from different faculties and expertise) for ideas and input with regards to session topics and recommendations for facilitators, both internally and externally.

Engage a variety of stakeholders if possible both in the planning and content, (i.e. funding bodies, third-sector professionals, internal impact-related champions, external development experts, facilities and technicians, academic, research and research-related professional staff). This will help create a diverse, rich and accessible programme where connections can be made and practice enhanced.

Take great care when designing the programme (both big and small) to consider how accessible the session(s) are. Try and make the programme flexible with different session lengths and formats as well as providing linked resources to help create an interesting and engaging series that enables participants to create their own bespoke development experience.

More information about this practice example:

Beneficiaries: Research staff Research and teaching staff

Stakeholders: Researchers

Concordat principles: Environment and culture Professional and career development

Keywords: Impact development activities knowledge exchange Research culture Training Professional development Research assessment