How training can equip research teams to increase their impact

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The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is an independent climate research collaboration between four universities in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The annual PICS Fellows Forum offers emerging researchers working on PICS-funded projects the opportunity to connect with each other, learn about emerging research on climate solutions, and gain skills and knowledge to enhance the impact of their research. At the 2021 forum, PICS worked with The Pew Charitable Trusts Evidence Project to adapt the Impact Initiative training workshop, which was developed by Leo Curran of the Pew Marine Fellows Program and Angela Bednarek of the Evidence Project.

This interview with Kristy Faccer, PICS Program Manager at the University of Victoria, has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What do you think is unique about PICS’ approach to climate solutions research?

I was drawn to PICS because, unlike other efforts that focus on understanding the problem or the science of climate change, PICS’ primary interest is in co-creating solutions. All research supported by PICS is conducted in close partnership with “solution seekers” – decision makers and managers from all types of organizations, whether commercial, governmental, non-governmental, community or First Nations. Each team working on PICS-supported projects is made up of experts in the field, emerging scholars and solution-seeking partners who work together to create meaningful new climate solutions designed to be used from the ground up.

Q: How did the collaboration between PICS and Pew begin?

Our collaboration at Scholars Forum 2021 was the most recent chapter in an ongoing relationship between PICS and Pew. A few years ago, Angela Bednarek of the Pew Evidence Project introduced PICS to the impact tracking framework that Pew uses in the Lenfest Ocean program, which offered a way for PICS to go beyond ordinary measurement. of research influence, i.e. academic citations, to capture the many types of impact our projects can have. For example, the framework measures changes in decision makers’ understanding of issues, new engagement among otherwise disconnected groups, and many often overlooked project effects that, taken together, can advance mitigation or adaptation to change. climatic. An adapted version of the framework continues to play an important role in our grantmaking and program management.

The relationship deepened in 2019 when I joined the Evidence Project’s Transforming Evidence Funders Network (TEFN), a global cross-sector network of funders invested in initiatives that advance the use of evidence. At our monthly meetings, we discuss the different ways we support projects that put knowledge into action: we share ideas for emerging strategies, retrospectives on long-standing efforts, and perspectives on a variety of in-between topics. I am also a member of a TEFN working group that focuses on how grantmaking criteria, processes, and funding models can make a difference in solutions-oriented research.

Q: PICS has adapted the Evidence Project Impact Initiative for the 2021 PICS Fellows Forum, right?

Yes. I worked with Angela and her Pew colleagues Leo Curran and Ben Miyamoto as well as PICS colleagues on adapting the Pew model. We then co-delivered this framework with Pew in training nearly 50 PICS researchers in the fall of 2021.

Q: What inspired this idea?

This stems from my participation in a TEFN workshop led by Leo and inspired by his work supporting the Pew Marine Fellows program. Leo, Angela, and I all thought that adapting the Pew Marine Scholars training would provide researchers with guidance on how to incorporate the ideas of their solution-seeking partners throughout the research process. While Lenfest’s monitoring framework helps us recognize and report on real-time impact, the training equips researchers with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to plan for greater impact and influence. in their work.

Q: How have PICS fellows responded to the training?

Researchers typically spend a lot of time zooming in on particular aspects of their academic projects such as data analysis, but the 2021 forum aimed to zoom out: exploring the broader environment in which their solutions will be implemented. work. The training focused on building what we call “impact pathways” for their projects: visual representations of people, activities, assumptions and other variables that can affect the impact of their project. . Feedback from forum participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Both verbally and in our written follow-up, we heard things like:


“I really liked [how the impact pathways] visualize the links between the different aspects of the same PICS project. I would really like to see this tool, or a similar tool, used as a living concept map of the project as it develops. »



Kristy Facer, Program manager
Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria


Q: What’s the next step?

We will work with our researchers to review their impact pathways and adjust them as their projects progress. We also see an opportunity to involve the principal researchers, the principal professors of each project, in the future work of building and updating the courses. Finally, I spoke with colleagues at Pew about facilitating similar conversations for our fellow TEFN participants. The peer-to-peer learning it has inspired has been invaluable to our researchers, and the collaboration has generated meaningful insights for PICS’ work in research funding and facilitation. As I’ve learned in Funder Network’s monthly discussions and working group meetings, opportunities to “pull the curtain” on funding practices can provide insight into how and why funders do what they do. they do, and inspire innovation and collaboration.

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