The growing ‘impact agenda’ has forced researchers more than ever to consider the wider social effects of their work. The STEPS Centre has used impact methodologies to reflect on how we are embedded in processes of learning and change.

ESRC Impact Awards

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.

In June 2016, Melissa Leach (Director of the Institute of Development Studies) and team were shortlisted in the same category for their work on the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP) and the related Ebola: lessons for development initiatives.

In 2012, the STEPS Centre won the first ever John Ziman award from the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) for “the most innovative cooperation in a venture to promote the public understanding of the social dimensions of science”. The award was given for the STEPS Centre’s project ‘Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto’.

Blog posts on impact

Research collaboration for global challenges: why it’s really hard by Ian Scoones, STEPS blog, 11 April 2016

Celebrating impact: How multidisciplinary One Health research produced results for real change in the real world by Naomi Marks, Nature Soapbox blog, 8 June 2016

Participatory approaches to impact: Learning from the STEPS Centre at Sussex Impact Day by Nathan Oxley, Research To Action blog, 22 June 2015

Framing impact: a simple word for a complex beast by Nathan Oxley, STEPS blog, 8 October 2013

Our methodology

Across a number of projects, STEPS used 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, how best to engage with them, and what power and politics are involved.

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

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

Analysing impact pathways

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

We reviewed our PIPAs in the middle of our projects and at the end, and compared them, to understand our success and challenges, and what unexpected impacts had emerged.

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’ (PIPA) method, reflects on how it has interacted with our research and covers our emerging thinking about how to evaluate the impact of our projects.

STEPS Centre Research: Our Approach to Impact 
Adrian Ely and Nathan Oxley
STEPS Working Paper 60
February 2014

Read the paper