The first stage of developing your strategy is to set out a clear statement of your objectives. This should link to your goals and how you will evaluate the success. If you have applied for ESRC funding much of this will have been detailed within your impact plan.
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?
Drafting your objectives
Research projects are often long and complex, but the objectives of your strategy should be as clear, simple and measurable as possible.
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 impact plan.
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
Objective setting will help when you come to evaluate the activities that you carried out. This will help determine if the activities achieved what they set out to achieve.
Whatever questions you plan to evaluate, make sure that you set SMART objectives:
- Specific – do the objectives specify what is to be achieved?
- Measurable – can data be collected that will test whether the objective has been met?
- Achievable – is it realistic to test this objective? Can the necessary data be collected within the time and budget constraints?
- Relevant – are the objectives relevant to the project?
- Time-bound – have you set objectives that can be measured within the timeframe of the project?
Prioritising your objectives
In a long strategy, the importance of your objectives and activities may change over time. For example, in the early stages, building awareness might be a higher priority than seeking influence. Your objectives should be flexible enough to accommodate this, but remember that there is a difference between being fluid and being vague. Undertaking too many unspecific activities may mean you have less time and money to do the things that count at the critical points.