Identifying and defining clear goals you wish to achieve is a vital process and underpins a lot of the activities you will engage in toward generating research impact. This process is closely linked with identifying your research end-users and you may wish to complete these steps in tandem.
The first step to develop your impact strategy is to understand what “impact” means for your research. What is your overarching goal? Why are the changes you are proposing important? What benefit will it have to the world, society, the environment and your stakeholders?
Listen to the Fast Track Impact Podcast episode Eight Questions to Envision Your Impact and/or read the show notes by Professor Mark Reed to help you get started on thinking about your impact goals.
Read this brief article on setting objectives by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Follow the SMART process in the article to identify objectives. Bear in mind how and when you will evaluate your progress towards your objectives throughout the process.
It is vital to develop clear and specific goals that are credible, achievable and relevant to the research end-users. Goals should be carefully developed in the context of your whole project, especially how they relate to the research end-users. You should also develop means of evaluating and measuring impact employed in later stages of the project.
Use the Curtin Research EI Toolkit Impact Planning Template [XLSX, 17kB] to identify and map out your goals (you may have used the same tool to identify your stakeholders, beneficiaries and their needs).
Alternatively, read section 2 of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) Impact Toolkit to gain a deeper understanding of how to determine research impact objectives using outcome mapping, with particular reference to collaboration with partners and spheres of influence. Page 11 also contains a suggested group exercise for identifying your objectives.
Consider: Who else is also working toward achieving your impact goals? Are there any competing interests? If so, how can you collaborate with or partner with them?
One way to thoroughly understand how to create and communicate your impact goals is to study and evaluate best practice examples. Select one of the following case studies and read through the impact summary, which includes the impact goals, then consider the following questions.
The Leicester Hate Crime Project
The Valuing Nature Program’s Peatland Tipping Points project