Originally posted on on think tanks:
How do you define success in research communications efforts? Clearly, if policy influence is the name of the game, then evidence of communications having played a role in policy change is an appropriate barometer. Trouble is, there are a number of conceptual, technical and practical challenges to finding evidence, and being able to use it to measure the success of an individual or organisation. There can be occasions when communications staff can show they played a role: perhaps someone has organised a series of meetings with policy-makers as part of a communications strategy, or the media have picked up a new report pushing an issue to the top of the policy agenda. However, given the complexity of policy cycles, examples of one particular action making a difference are often disappointingly rare, and it is even harder to attribute each to the quality of the research, the management of it, or the delivery of communications around it.
I have recently created a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) dashboard to track how ODI outputs disseminated through our main communications channels fare. This brings together qualitative and quantitative data collected digitally, including a range of data available from new digital tools used on our website and online. In this blog, I outline some of the lessons I’ve learnt in the process of creating the dashboard and investigating the data, a framework I’ve developed for assessing success, and list some of the key digital tools I’ve encountered that are useful for M&E of research communications. If you’re only interested in the tools and applications, please do jump right to the end for the list.