Maximising impact- Developing a strategy
The strategy is a more comprehensive plan to achieve and maintain your outlined Pathway to
Impact. Before completing this form please see the developing a strategy section of the
ESRC's Pathway to Impact Toolkit. The Step by Step guide within this section should be
used for reference. It takes you through each stage of the process, including setting
objectives, developing key messages, identifying your audience getting them involved, and
Opportunities for making an impact may arise at any stage during or after your research
project. It is important that you have a strategy in place so that you can increase the chances
of such opportunities occurring and are able to take advantage of them when they do.
Ensure that your impact strategy does not just restate the objectives of the research programme
itself. The ESRC is already aware of these – they are not the same as the objectives for your
The following questions provide a useful starting point:
What are the likely outcomes of this research?
Who will benefit from this research?
How will they benefit from this research?
How can you involve potential beneficiaries in this research?
How will you know if it has made a difference?
A typical set of objectives might be to:
Build awareness of the project among a defined audience
Secure the commitment of a defined group of stakeholders to the project aims
Influence specific policies or policymakers on key aspects
Encourage participation among researchers or partner bodies
For detailed guidance, see the section on setting objectives.
Developing messages An effective strategy needs to have clear, succinct messages that
summarise your research.
If your research project is long and complex, it may be difficult to set out these key messages at
the beginning. But it is useful to consider whether there are any over-arching messages that can
be used while it is underway, or any specific messages that relate to particular parts of the project.
For detailed guidance, see the section on developing messages.
It is vital to know who your key audiences are. You should already have a clear idea of this,
but it is worth taking time to ensure that you have considered all those who may have an
interest in your research.
Your target audiences will be specific to your project but many are common to all research
organisations. The ESRC recently mapped some of its most significant stakeholders and came up
with a list which may be useful as a starting point for drawing up your own list:
For detailed guidance, see the section on targeting audiences.
Prioritising your audiences Choosing engagement activities and
It is important to consider the most appropriate channels to reach your target– for example
through press articles, workshops, regular user groups, or conferences. This will help you to
frame the main activities of your impact strategy, for example:
Why a regular newsletter rather than a more occasional briefing?
Why a large national conference rather than a series of smaller regional seminars?
Why an email bulletin rather than face-to-face contact?
Why invite them to come to you when you can go to them?
For detailed guidance, see the section on choosing channels.
Internal to research project
People interested in research1
Policy – national
Policy - local
Achieving your objectives – Planning activities
Full details of all the relevant engagement activities developed into a working project plan with
deadlines and responsibilities. Remember to include key milestones and review dates, think
carefully about the resources required and cost, including staff and consultants, in order to carry
out your proposed engagement activities. Consider how you will evaluate success. Below are
some suggested groupings, the table is led by activity but you may well want to have one for each
year of activity.
An impact strategy is a living document and will need regular reviewing and updating.
For detailed guidance, see the sections on planning activities, allocating resources and measuring
Activity Budget /resources Deadline/timeframe Success criteria
development of logo
Printing of stationery
Launch event (if
Office, ESRC Press
Office, and other
funders press offices
involvement in KTNs
booklets and books
This will include
outputs to ESRC’s
This will include
contacting ESDS and
setting up systems to
ease data deposition
Were your activities successful? The only way to find out is to build in evaluation from the
beginning. Effective evaluation is about improvement not judgement. Evaluation offers an
opportunity to demonstrate how well an activity – whether it is a one-off or ongoing -worked but
also to identify areas that could be developed or enhanced. It should also explore the entire
programme – from the early planning stages through to final delivery.
For detailed guidance, see the sections on measuring success.