Incremental Changes to the Co-Produced Pathway to Impact

This week’s guest post comes from Stephen MacGregor @Steve_KMbRI, who is a Phd student in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. 

In response to the recent post about evolving the Co-Produced Pathway to Impact (CPPI), several incremental changes to the pathway are discussed. In line with the continual progression in thinking about how research evidence comes to have non-academic impacts, these incremental changes contribute to the advancement of how we plan for, monitor, and assess impact.

As set out in the recent Approaches to Assessing Impacts in the Humanities and Social Sciences by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, interest in how to assess and communicate the impacts of research is growing across the globe. A prime example of this growing interest is the World University Rankings developed by the Times Higher Education. Debuted in September 2018, this new way of ranking universities will directly seek to capture universities’ impact on society by showing how they are working towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This development is one among many associated with the global research impact agenda, and collectively such developments compel a regular re-examining of how we think about impact.

Published in 2016 and explicitly evolved in 2018, the CPPI offers practitioners of research impact a comprehensive model for the pathway from research development to impact. The CPPI shares many qualities with other frequently discussed and employed models of impact, including an emphasis on multi-stakeholder interaction at each stage of the research process (reflected in the Payback Framework and the Spirit Action Framework); the iterative nature of impact feeding back into research inputs (reflected in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences framework and the Knowledge to Action Cycle); and the complex, overlapping contexts of different research stakeholders (reflected in the Contribution Mapping model). As those who study and work with impact have come to realize, though, no model of impact (or related concepts such as knowledge mobilization [KMb], for that matter) can be treated as valid and reliable in all situations. For that reason, an especially useful property of the CPPI is its horizontal (across different research contexts) and vertical (different levels of a research system) pliability.

Evolving out of my doctoral research and continuing with the changes described in the 2018 post, several minor changes to the CPPI are described below and shown in the figure. Changes include shading the overlapping researcher and partner contexts to identify this area as a brokering space, arrows added to the ends of “stakeholder engagement” to signify how it extends before and after formal research timelines, and re-phrasing “performance monitoring” to “process monitoring” to reflect the less-overt ways that impact can occur.


Brokering space: The original CPPI article sets out the overlapping space between researcher and partner contexts as “a shared space of collaboration where co-production occurs at each stage of the pathway” (p. 33). While identifying this overlapping area as a “brokering space” retains the researcher-partner interaction, is also encourages more specific consideration for how knowledge brokers and knowledge brokering strategies can be leveraged. For example, by drawing on the concept of brokering functions, we could explore the effectiveness of different KMb strategies for a specific research program in a specific context at a specific time. Seeing this area as a brokering space also provokes more conceptual questions about how we can improve what is happening throughout the pathway. For example, what can contemporary ideas such as Bayley, Phipps, Batac, and Stevens’s (2017) framework for KMb and impact competencies tell us about the research to impact process? Are certain competencies more important than others at different times in the research to impact process?

Stakeholder engagement: Specifying the importance of stakeholder engagement was a focus in the recent post about the CPPI, and in this post it is further developed through the minor addition of arrows. To be sure, this change is a minor one, yet its importance cannot be understated. Stakeholder engagement is a critical element to increasing the likelihood that research outputs will have relevance to co-production partners. Before the research development stage, for example, we know that prior interactions often feed into future interactions—a finding continually highlighted in studies that map effective interactions between researchers and journalists. Similarly, emerging evidence has alluded to the potential for sustained engagement following formal research endpoints as a potential accelerant of impact. The key point here is that sustained stakeholder engagement means that the overlap between researcher and partner contexts can extend before and after formal research timelines.

Process monitoring: In the 2018 post, performance monitoring was identified as a potential feature of the CPPI. This feature was an addition to the original pathway after being adapted for the Kids Brain Health Network where monitoring the progress of multiple projects was the objective. Here “performance monitoring” is rephrased to “process monitoring.” The primary motivation for the change was to align the CPPI with the ideas of Nutley, Walter, and Davies (2007) who observed that impact can occur through stakeholders’ involvement in the research process. Although impact is typically framed as an outcome of research, it can also emerge directly from the collaboration and co-creation processes that define the CPPI.  Two additional motivations bring about this change: First, by viewing KMb as the process and impact as the outcome, this change encourages more concerted thought about KMb throughout the pathway. Second, this change respects the fact that impact assessment (positioned at the end of the pathway) needs to account for both research processes and research outcomes. As Dr. Sarah Morton reminds us in here article Progressing Research Impact Assessment: A ‘Contributions’ Approach, timing, attribution, and addressing context are perennial challenges for research impact assessment. However, by capturing the contributions of both processes and outcomes of research, we are able to think more deeply about what is being assessed.

The impact agenda and associated initiatives are gaining momentum, telling us that not only is research impact becoming a mainstay of national research infrastructure, it is becoming part of global research consciousness. In line with the continual progression in thinking about how research comes to have impact in society, these incremental changes to the CPPI contribute to the advancement of how we plan for, monitor, and assess impact.


Bayley, J. E., Phipps, D., Batac, M., & Stevens, E. (2017). Development of a framework for knowledge mobilisation and impact competencies. Online publication in Evidence & Policy, p. 1–14.