DESIGN OF ACADEMIC RESEARCH PROJECTS WITH SOCIAL IMPACT
Academic research cannot be oblivious to social problems and needs, so projects that have the capacity for transformation and impact have to prevail. It is necessary to reflect on how to design and present projects in a context of uncertainty and change, with new financing perspectives where demonstrating the social impact is considered a crucial part of any proposal.
In order to fulfill with these needs, once the basic concepts (social value, result, benefit and impact) are clarified, the strategic axes and the priority lines of research should be established, by mapping the University's potentialities, the interest for society and the SDG. This means that the impact of a research project should be the demonstrable contribution to society. Therefore, the impact must be considered in the scientific, economic and social fields, as it is usually expressed as a medium and long-term benefit obtained by the target population.
Thus, the social impact should be taken into consideration during all phasis of scientific research: formulation of the problem, design of the investigation, data collect, data analysis and drawing conclusions, analysis of the current situation, planning of the change we want to produce, running project and follow-up, and measuring the change that occurred. In order to do so, in this session we will introduce the Theory of Change and the ABC technique (Avoid – Benefit – Contribute), as a project design methodology used to explain how and why the activities of a project will lead to the desired changes. The desired change represents a set of conditions, relationships and results that we want to contribute to occur in the years to come from our action in the present and future environment (in that context, three types of changes will be explained: emerging, transformative and projectable).
Taking into account the above, we intend to point out the importance the impact has in designing and carrying out scientific projects, to clarify the difference between the result and the impact (the former achieves, the latter transforms), since many researchers tend to confuse these terms, and to offer a useful methodology based on the Theory of Change to include the social impact in the project design from its beginnings, which is considered to be particularly important in times of change. This actually means that Project Managers themselves have to be familiarized with the impact in the research field, in order for them to offer quality trainings and information to researchers. Actually, since many researchers at our University of Seville, Spain, have basic or no knowledge on designing research proposals with the impact, from our office we have already carried out three courses about this topic. As a comparison method, it is in our plans to discuss it with other Project Managers interested in our poster, in order to verify the level of experience the researchers at their universities have in projects with social impact, on the one hand, and the tools that are possibly used at their offices to encourage the use of innovative methodologies in project design, on the other.