By Kerry Albright
Not many people are aware that UNICEF has a dedicated centre for research, the Office of Research – Innocenti. based in Florence, Italy. One of our current projects is a multi- country study of the Drivers of Violence affecting children led by Dr Catherine Maternowska in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and national partners in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Italy and Peru. The goals of the project are to: (i) deepen understanding of the drivers of violence affecting children, leading to the design of effective initiatives at scale that prevent it; (ii) contribute to the global evidence base on how and why change happens.; (iii) develop a replicable practice model on how to combine research and effective intervention to prevent violence affecting children.
Fascinatingly, potentially as a result of the human-centred design ‘Research to Policy & Practice’ (R3P) model developed by the project which places an onus on local ownership and in-country secondary analysis of existing data, research outcomes and instrumental (policy change) impacts appear to be emerging even before publication of research outputs and any obvious academic impact. Similarly, only two years in to the project, there are already strong indications of capacity-building impact and conceptual impact amongst national stakeholders.
For example, whilst acknowledging the difficulties of ‘attribution’ vs ‘contribution’, perceived pathways to impact in Peru include changes in national legislation and public policies on corporal punishment; direct influence on national and international discourse and action plans relating to violence prevention; secondary analysis and use of previously suppressed sensitive national datasets on violence; maximizing value for money through use of existing data rather than commissioning of unnecessary expensive primary research; leveraging of national co-funding for new national budgeting for violence-prevention and adoption of the R3P model in other countries outside of the project. Additional ‘softer’ impacts relate to claims of increased confidence, empowerment and voice amongst Peruvian researchers, civil servants and government officials.
UNICEF is keen to better understand the nature of these emerging impact claims which seem to indicate that the process of conducting research is just as important as the research findings themselves and can lead to enhanced research uptake. As such, we are working with Dr Sarah Morton of the University of Edinburgh to independently verify these emerging societal impacts in Peru using the Research Contribution Framework methodology, developed by Dr. Morton in 2015. Adapted from ‘Contribution Analysis;, this empirically-grounded framework can help identify the ways that research is taken up and used to influence policy and practice as well as to articulate wider societal benefits. The method allows for a focus on the role of research users and examines both processes and outcomes. The impact case study findings will be available in April 2017. For further information, please contact AESIS Member and UNICEF-Innocenti staff member Kerry Albright at firstname.lastname@example.org