By Alex Dechilly and Kacper Wroblewski

Two weeks ago, on the 20th of May, me and my fellow intern, Kacper, sat in on the third CIRCLET international learning circle workshop about impact in research and teaching. Despite not being actively involved, both of us definitely felt like we gained something by joining in. This blogposts summarizes what we took from the workshop, exploring the impact dimensions, narratives and communication strategies of engaged research.

The workshop was organized as a World Café, a method in which people are split up in groups and go from table to table (or in this case, breakout room to breakout room) to work on a specific question. During the workshop, each room worked on a different question related to the topics of impact and transfer, making use of a different method.

A first room asked the question ‘What is impact?’ through the Rich Picture method. This method required participants to draw their answer and explain as they are drawing. The second room used the Photo Voice method to explore ‘How to communicate impact?’. In the Photo Voice method people look for a picture that sums up their answer and they explain why they chose that picture. Lastly, the question ‘How to identify impact?’ was posed through the Critical Incident Narrative where participants told a story that has stayed with them as an answer to this question.

With the help of a Miro board participants were able to bring all their ideas together and collaboratively created a shared repository of insights and aspirations.

Amongst the impacts the participants reported for their CERL initiatives, open-mindedness and tolerance were most frequently mentioned as an important issue that has to be raised and settled in the process of learning. Moreover, it was stressed that community partners and lecturers should work together with students, as well as help them experience aspects of life outside of the university. The immediate experience of diversity helps to understand it and to become more tolerant. In general, impacts concerned changing ways of living.

The discussion on how to communicate about impact yielded many important insights. First of all, it was noted that new, more active ways of communicating have to be used, involving more people in the process, rather than the standard one-way presentation from one speaker. This means that more anthropocentric approaches, involving people who are impacted and their testimonials, need to be adopted. Besides, communication should be interactive and inclusive. It cannot go in one direction only, but it should be constructed as a conversation. On top of that, it is also important to show how making impact affects the people who are involved: making a change makes students happy. Through this positive rendition more people are motivated to be engaged in an impact-oriented initiative.

In the Critical Incident Narrative, it quickly became evident that much of teachers’ and researchers’ impact has changed the narrative and provided a different perspective. Many of their stories included how students had a better understanding of the others’ views and gain insight into their own prejudices. As much as all these teachers spoke about the impact they had on their students, it impacted them in turn to talk about the moments and situations that have influenced the lives of their students.

Perhaps that is the message to take home here: impact goes both ways. This reciprocity not only impacts the way students create their own path, it helps their teachers to keep being critical as well.

Alex Dechilly

Kacper Wroblewski