Sustainability research effectiveness 

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 can learn what works and what does not work in specific contexts and generate lessons for researchers, research managers, research funders, and society more generally.

Our Projects

In our program, we:

  1. explore theories of social change as they apply to sustainability research and knowledge translation;
  2. develop and refine concepts of effective research design and implementation;
  3. conduct case-studies and comparative analyses of completed research projects.

Exploring Social Theory Underpinning Sustainability Research Effectiveness

How do social theories apply in sustainability research to enhance effective practices?

Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation and Assessment

What are appropriate criteria and indicators for defining and measuring transdisciplinary research?

How can the characteristics of high quality research be used for effective design and assessment?

Case Study Analyses of Completed Research Projects

To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?

Impact Pathways of Royal Roads Student Research

How does Royal Roads University graduate student research reflect the espoused university model of applied, solution-oriented, and real-world focused research?

To what extent and how do Royal Roads University graduate research projects contribute to social change?

our Team

We are an interdisciplinary team with diverse expertise based at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Sustainability Research Effectiveness team works in collaboration with a number of partnering organizations and students. 



Conceptualizing Research Outcomes and Impacts

Brian Belcher is participating in a working group on improving how researchers collect and communicate impact information in the social sciences and humanities. Brian submitted a brief on how our program conceptualizes research outcomes and impacts. The brief notes that typical measures of “research impact” focus on indicators of influence on the research agenda (e.g. publications, citations, impact factors) via research outputs and communications. We are more interested in influence beyond the academic, particularly in social change.

SRE Supports Power To Be in Developing A New Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy

Brian Belcher, Rachel Davel, Rachel Claus, and Cheryl Heykoop facilitated a full-day workshop with Power To Be staff, partners, and participants to develop a Theory of Change for the organization. This will support Power To Be in piloting a new monitoring and evaluation strategy that helps the organization achieve its goals. Power To Be aspires to inspire youth and families in need of support to discover their limitless abilities through nature-based programs.

Royal Roads Bachelor of Business Administration focuses on Social Impact

The Bachelor of Business Administration Program at Royal Roads University initiated collaboration with the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team to articulate a Theory of Change for their program. The process advanced understanding and highlighted important lessons about how their program can contribute to social change.

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Our work is made possible through the Canada Research Chair Program (CRCP) of the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).