Making a difference
Research should result in positive social and environmental changes that supports and/or informs the work of Transition.
The impact of academic research has often been greater for researchers than for researched communities. The recent refocusing on “research impact” has taken on a particular, sometimes double-edged meaning that does not always benefit those communities.
For many years, the idea of research having direct and positive impacts on people and communities or organisations involved was a secondary interest for many academics. Recently, this has changed and “research impact” is now valued. However, this can be double-edged – it is potentially positive for the capacity of academic research to be more interested in and useful to movements like Transition, but negative in that projects with “high” reach and significance are most valued. Under the current model by which academic research is being audited, research with and for grassroots movements is likely to be less valued than research that, for example, affects government policy directly.
But the “true impact” of research goes far beyond this simple model of cause/effect and limited understandings of transformative change. True impact may involve positive outcomes in diverse forms at a range of scales. For Transition, one gauge for true impact is how useful research is to Transition across its lifecourse - how far does the research support the overarching values of Transition?
While there are many well-intentioned researchers who see activism as a central part of their practice, and share the goals of Transition, there may be others who seek “impact” for academic benefit, without co-working and dialogue.
Research should result in positive social and environmental changes that support the work of Transition. Important impacts may be small scale and dispersed, and may come through research processes as well as outcomes.