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Planning for and evidencing policy impact

What is policy impact and how do you evidence it?

What is policy impact?

‘Policy impact’ in research terms relates to changes that are derived from your research insights, academic studies or, more broadly, from your expertise.

The influence of research insights or your expertise on policy can be broad, from impacting knowledge and understanding or informing policy decisions and policy debates, to shaping policies, policymaking, and implementation at local, regional, national or international levels.

‘Policy engagement’ is the mechanism, or activity, you can use to try to bring about change(s) to deliver impact.

See What is policy engagement?

Planning policy engagement for impact

It is important to think about planning your engagement activities early on in the process to ensure that it is built into your research and is adequately resourced.

We recommend that you first consider developing a Theory of Change (ToC) which is a useful approach to help you do this. A ToC helps to tell your story of change, it supports you to make strategic decisions, develop your monitoring and evaluation plans as well as being a useful communication tool.

At Bath we have developed a simplified process to help you to do this, called the 5Ps model:

1. Articulate the Policy Problem

  • What is the policy problem you are trying to address? This may be a gap, need, challenge or specific problem.
  • What are the factors that contribute to the problem?
  • Why is it a problem, why is it important and to whom?

2. Clarify the Purpose

  • What difference do you hope your research will make to that problem in the long term?
  • What changes in the short-term do you need to bring about the desired long-term change (impact)?
  • Consider mapping back from your end goal (impact) all the changes you need to see

Also see Communicating your research for policy

3. Identify your People (Stakeholders)

  • Who is directly affected? Who has influence or interest?
  • Who do you need to involve, engage with or consult?
  • What is your, your colleagues, or the University's relationship with these stakeholders?

Also see Stakeholder mapping

4. Develop a Process

  • How will you involve, engage, or inform your stakeholders?
  • What activities do you need to do, what are your potential entry points?
  • Consider looking at each key stakeholder to define what relationships you already have, who you need to develop relationships with, and how best to reach them.

5. Monitor and evaluate your engagement and impact (Performance)

  • How will you evidence progress towards and delivery of your engagement?
  • How will you know what worked and what needs improving?
  • Developing a ['Theory of Change'](https://www.ukri.org/blog/introducing-our-theory-of-change/#:~:text=Our%20theory%20of%20change%20identifies,that%20we%20want%20to%20see0 from the outset will help you with your planning but also to develop your monitoring and evaluation plan. There are lots of useful tools out there to help you, but also contact research-impact@bath.ac.uk for support with this

What constitutes 'evidence' for policy impact?

Evidencing what contributions your research has made on policy can be difficult. Policymaking is not a linear process and multiple, competing inputs feed into policy decisions. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take to collate evidence of how your work is being used or applied.

From the outset of your research, it is really important to plan and develop a monitoring evaluation framework to help you gather supporting information as your research progresses.

Examples of qualitative and quantitative evidence for policy impact can include:

  • Documents: Hansard, grey literature, policy documents and slidepacks, evaluations of policy implementation, research articles, Knowledge Exchange (KE) at targeted relevant industry, academia and government events such as The White Hall and Industry Group, roundtables
  • Project documentation: Minutes of meetings, email exchanges, reports from round table events
  • Testimonial letters: Letters from policy or decision-makers referencing how your research has been used
  • Online policy impact tracking tools – Almetrics, PlumX, Overton

For support and guidance on evidencing impact or developing a monitoring and evaluation plan, contact the Research Impact Team or see Supporting your Research Impact.

Also see UK Parliament’s Knowledge Exchange Unit for further advice and guidance on evidencing policy impact.

Recommendations

  • Plan your policy engagement for impact early on.
  • Develop a ‘Theory of Change’ model or use the five ‘Ps’ (problem, purpose, people, process, and performance) to help plan your engagement activities to deliver.
  • Speak to RIS for help in planning for and evidencing policy impact to ensure their team is aware of your work .
  • Draw from the Bath Policy Engagement Academy resources which provide routes for policy engagement which can help to enable policy impact.
  • Keep an evidence trail of all your policy engagements and set up alerts for potential impact using online impact tools such as Almetrics, PlumX and Overton. Log evidence in PURE.

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