April 12, 2021

The importance of having an impact framework

There’s usually one question that senior managers ask their teams when embarking on any new initiative and that is “What will success look like?”. In order to understand whether the plan is working you need to know whether progress is being made and which metrics are used to judge this. Typically an organization will have a strategic aim and senior leaders like to point at that aim and say things like “Let me show you how we are achieving this”. In the research sector things aren’t often quite as straightforward, in part due to an over-reliance on simply stating how much money has been invested, but also because many organizations still lack a formal framework for explaining and evidencing how they are being successful.

Being able to point to success is not just important from a PR standpoint, but increasingly as a means to provide evidence and justification for continued or increased funding. In a year such as the one we have all lived through, more and more funding organizations are striving to make themselves heard, to tell their own story, to explain why they remain a force for good in the community and why they should continue doing what they do. When organizations approach their stakeholders for extra dollars, whether it be the Federal legislature, the treasury department or even from the public, it is abundantly clear that they need to do more than simply state how much investment they have historically made into research. 

One prominent way of explaining all of this is to think about the impact an organization has on society. A movement which seeks to articulate the impact that is being made as a result of the investment in research has swept through the UK and Europe and is starting to make its presence felt here in the USA. In order for European funding organizations to be able to explain their impact they have all created an impact framework specifically for how they operate. In the USA we might call this a monitoring, evaluation and learning framework, but ostensibly these are mechanisms by which the organization can tell if it is succeeding against its own stated strategic aims.

In the US, many organizations are yet to build their own impact framework perhaps because until now, there has not been a compelling reason for doing so. But now there is. Budgets are under pressure, the economy has been knocked every which way and while we give thanks for the brilliant scientists who were able to produce vaccines, we must ensure that investment in research continues. Being able to provide proof of the impact a funding organization has on society is fast becoming the new must-have within the research community.

At Interfolio we pride ourselves on having a broad and deep understanding of the challenges faced by funders all over the world as a direct result of working closely with them for the past decade. As such we have devised a 5-step methodology which allows funders of all descriptions to build their own frameworks for evaluating their research. 

Step 1 – Understanding your current strategy

Step 2 – Workshops to dig deeper into how you define success

Step 3 – Data audit – what data do you have, what are the gaps and what is the quality?

Step 4 – Understanding your audience

Step 5 – Build the framework

Why not speak with one of us today and start your own journey towards building an impact framework for your organization?