Levine, A.S. (2020) Research Impact Through Matchmaking (RITM): Why and How to Connect Researchers and Practitioners. Political Science & Politics. 53(2):265-269 https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096519001720
Researchers and practitioners increasingly want to learn from one another and work together to solve problems. This article presents results from a new evidence-based approach for connecting them, called Research Impact Through Matchmaking (RITM). This method leverages research on organizational diversity to initiate new relationships between diverse people. The article describes the method and presents data from 37 new connections between practitioners working at nonprofits and social scientists. To my knowledge, this is the first dataset describing reasons why a large variety of nonprofit practitioners value social science research. I also document the impact of these matches. Overall, this article provides actionable guidance for those who want to initiate their own new connections (i.e., match themselves) and/or to broker new connections between others.
Adam Seth Levine is an associate professor of government at Cornell University and the principal and founder of Research4Impact that offers services and workshops for matchmaking to “bridge social science and practice”.
He has documented the outcome of 37 requests for matchmaking arising from his outreach to social service practitioners from non-profit organizations. He documents four goals that the non-profit practitioners were seeking from engagement with academic researchers in the social sciences:
- To receive an overview of the literature
- To make an immediate evidence-based decision
- To gain ideas about how to measure impact
- To collaborate with a researcher on a new project.
The first three resulted in a call with a researcher usually lasting less than 60 minutes.
This certainly is engagement between and academic researcher and a practitioner. But is it impact…we will come to that later.
Throughout the authors refers to RITM as a “new evidence-based approach for initiating connections across diverse spaces”. I would draw the author to our publication on knowledge brokering titled “An institutional Process for Brokering community-campus research collaborations” that describes step by step how York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (founded in 2006) identifies needs in community, seeks appropriate research expertise, manages ego, makes an introduction, and monitors the growing relationship, providing supports as needed. The first three steps mirror the work described in this article. But the effort of Research4Impact, as described in the article, stops after the first phone call.
Nonetheless, the participants ranked the exchanges very highly with 94% or practitioners indicating the conversation provided useful information and 94% also found the discussion worthwhile. That’s excellent engagement…but is it impact? We’ll come to that later.
OK…this is later. According to the co produced pathway to impact, Reearch4Impact is engaging stakeholders to help researchers disseminate their knowledge and expertise and facilitate uptake of the knowledge and expertise by practitioners. But there is no reported evidence that the knowledge was implemented by the practitioner and, if it was implemented, did that make a difference (i.e. did it make an impact).
I’m not saying the author’s work is wrong, but it arises from a different mandate than KMb York. KMb York has an institutional mandate to support the various impacts of research on our local and global communities. This is articulated in the University Academic Plan (Priority 2). The co produced pathway to impact drives KMb York to go beyond engagement and dissemination to facilitated uptake and monitoring with the practitioner partner to collect and communicate the evidence of implementation and impact (i.e. effective policy, practice, social service).
Does the process described by Research4Impact make an impact? Yes, it did according to their definition and according to the mandate of Research4Impact. The article is useful in that it reinforces the existing literature and confirms that existing knowledge mobilization practices can be replicated.
Adam Seth Levine give me a call and we can talk about what this could mean at an institutional level (ie Cornell).
Questions for brokers:
- A rose (ie a knowledge brokering process) by any other name, does it smell as sweet?
- What are your thoughts on engagement as an end point?
- Engagement ≠ Impact. Or does it? Discuss.
p.s., thank you Tamika Heiden (Research Impact Academy) for introducing me to Adam when he spoke at the latest Research Impact Summit.
Research Impact Canada is producing this journal club series to make evidence on KMb more accessible to knowledge brokers and to create online discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other knowledge mobilization stakeholders. Read this open access article. Then come back to this post and join the journal club by posting your comments