A recent article in the Qualitative Research Journal, written by BU’s Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones with input from Camilla Gibson, Strategic Equality and Inclusion Manager, Hampshire County Council’s Adult Services, talk about what it takes to create meaningful community impact with academic research and outputs.
Patience and perseverance remain the watchwords. Locating, then nurturing, community partnerships are key to the success of this kind of approach. The authors consider how tools—including a film and a method deck of cards—were shared with community organisations, and how, in turn, these organisations use the tools to develop awareness of the needs of older LGBT people within their organisations and communities. In the article, Gibson recounts the way in which the tools were used with success with over 4,000 Adult Services staff in Hampshire.
If we are really serious about “impact”, we must remember that, in the case of dissemination of research at least, impact is not always a moment in the sun—an explosion of a scientific “breakthrough” on the public scene—then yesterday’s news. Good research has a “long tail”— (in statistics “a large number of occurrences far from the ‘head’ or central part of the distribution”). To achieve this, first, it takes tenacity on the part of the research team, or an ability to be a bit blinkered about its work, and a willingness to stick to the team’s goals and commitment over the long term. Secondly, it takes allies, and these are often community members, service providers, and so forth, who are energised by the work and take up the mantle. Finally, to create real impact, it takes resources available to carry out the work—not necessarily of the size or scope of the original research funding, but just as important to success.
Funds raised by the very process of REF activities should, therefore, be put to work and managed directly by the researchers creating the impact who are aware of the research potential and maintain familiarity and connectivity with community partners.
The article, Meaningful dissemination produces the “long tail” that engenders community impact can be downloaded here.