IDS working papers;335

Making science of influencing : assessing the impact of development research

Published on 1 January 2009

The impact and influence of development research is an agenda that has been
gathering momentum over the last few years. This agenda is a coming together of
two divergent concerns. The first, from the funders of research, draws on results
based management and is concerned with getting value-for-money from research
spending or with ‘more bang for the buck’. The second, more typical of those in
the development studies research community, is concerned with whether research
in the area is ‘making a difference’. Among development researchers there is also
often a political or normative basis – addressing global poverty and inequality –
and catalysing change.
The meanings of the terms’ impact and influence are multiple, multi-layered and
complex to track. They may refer to use (i.e. consideration) or actual outcome(s)
of social change. They can be visible or invisible; progressive or regressive.
Impacts and influence can be intended or unintended and immediate or long-term.
The processes of impact and influence are acknowledged to be non-linear,
iterative and complex.
This paper considers the impact and influence of development research from a
plurality of perspectives. Interest in the impact/influence of research projects
aggregates upwards to support the overall case for (often public) funding of
development research (in areas that are likely to play a major role in the next few
years in changing the climate for public expenditure in light of the global financial
Keywords: policy; influence; impact; communication; advocacy; evaluation.

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