The Sustainability Research Effectiveness Program strives to help research deliver real-world impact
This website contains concepts, methods, and tools
to support effective research design and evaluation
Our research program aims to improve the contributions that research makes to social change processes. The program recognizes that contemporary sustainability challenges are complex and require innovative solutions. It appreciates that dedicated researchers are experimenting with new ways to design and implement research that is more engaged, pluralistic, and democratic in order to be more effective. This creates a great opportunity and a need to analyze and learn from experience.
Our program has developed a conceptual framework, tools, and methods for assessing the quality and effectiveness of change-oriented research. By applying this approach to evaluate, analyse, and compare a series of completed research projects, we learn what works and what does not work in specific contexts and generate lessons for researchers, research managers, research funders, and society more broadly.
The results of our work are available in peer-reviewed publications, case reports, and have been presented at numerous conferences, invited talks, and events. We have additional resources for those interested in applying our concepts, methods, and tools to their own work.
Belcher, B. M., Claus, R., Davel, R., & Ramirez, L. F. (2019). Linking transdisciplinary research characteristics and quality to effectiveness: A comparative analysis of five research-for-development projects. Environmental Science & Policy, 101: 192–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.08.013
Belcher, B. M., Ramirez, L. F., Davel, R., & Claus, R. (2018). A response to Hansson and Polk (2018) “Assessing the impact of transdisciplinary research: The usefulness of relevance, credibility, and legitimacy for understanding the link between process and impact”. Research Evaluation, 28(2): 196–201. https://doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvy037
In our program, we:
- explore theories of social change as they apply to sustainability research and knowledge translation;
- develop and refine concepts of effective research design and implementation; and
- conduct case-studies and comparative analyses of completed research projects.
Exploring Social Theory Underpinning Sustainability Research Effectiveness
Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation and Assessment
The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) undertook an extensive study to assess its contributions to key global challenges: (1) accelerating rates of deforestation and forest degradation, (2) restoring degraded land and ecosystem services, (3) widespread unsustainable land use practices, (4) persistent rural poverty and increasing levels of vulnerability, and (5) rising demand and need for nutritious food for current and future generations. The Sustainability Research Effectiveness team supported FTA to measure progress to outcomes and estimate potential impacts of the program to address these challenges.
Both the Transdisciplinary Research Quality Assessment Framework and the Outcome Evaluation Approach were given spotlight in the latest issue of Research Features magazine. The article discusses the need for new approaches to define and assess transdisciplinary research, as more researchers and funders have come to appreciate the value of transcending disciplinary academic boundaries.
The Sustainability Research Effectiveness team was recently invited to support Ashoka Canada to develop a Theory of Change to support a new Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy for Ashoka Canada. Ashoka Canada is working to build and cultivate a community of change leaders who catalyze positive change in the world.