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 Work 

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.

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.

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; and
  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 International Research for Development Projects

To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?

Case Study Analyses 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?


CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry evaluates its impact 

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry evaluates its impact 

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.

SRE Approaches get Research Feature

SRE Approaches get Research Feature

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.

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