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The growing ‘impact agenda’ has forced researchers more than ever to consider the wider social effects of their work. Understandings of impact vary widely, and the costs and difficulty of measuring it are well-known.

The STEPS Centre has established an Impact, Communications and Engagement (ICE) unit to build our understanding of impact. The ICE unit supports projects to consider about what they are contributing to local contexts, as well as to national and international debates and processes.

Our methods

We use a planning tool called Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA). PIPA aims to include project partners in discussing the actors and networks we might influence through a research project. We also look at how best to engage with them, and what power and politics are involved.

For more details on how we use this method, look at our PIPA page in the Methods section of this website.

PIPA allows us to identify differences in outlook and knowledge among project partners. We aim to identify how our projects interact with wider processes of social change.

Analysing impact pathways

Our projects are also tracking interactions with individuals and networks. This will help to build up a picture of where our work has an influence, and the potential reach of our ideas.

Working paper on impact

This paper by Adrian Ely and Nathan Oxley explores the STEPS Centre’s approach to impact within the context of wider debates and responses to the impact agenda. It also describes our use of the ‘Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis’ planning method, reflects on how it has interacted with our research and covers our emerging thinking about how to evaluate the impact of our projects.

ESRC Impact Award

STEPS Director Ian Scoones was a winner of the Outstanding International Impact Award at the ESRC’s 50th anniversary Celebrating Impact Award ceremony in June 2015, for his work on rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe.


Further reading