(21 September 2017) Dr. Sarah Morton, of the University of Edinburgh, and fellow researchers, recently completed an impact assessment of a UNICEF Innocenti research programme, the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children, which generates evidence on best pathways to prevent violence against children in Italy, Peru, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe. The project aims to help governments address violence against children by promoting better understanding of why it occurs – the drivers of violence. The assessment report narrowed its focus on the outcomes of the violence study in Peru, making that country a case study for important lessons learned for other countries involved in the research project and beyond.
The assessment addressed the following objectives:
“The Drivers of Violence project has human-centred design approaches at its core. Findings are intended to feed back into both national programming and the emerging global evidence base on violence prevention on a real-time basis,” said Kerry Albright, Chief of Research Facilitation and Knowledge Management at Innocenti. “Unusually, early indications of outcomes and impact were emerging even before research outputs had been written. We were keen to better understand and document the value of approaching research in such a way through independent corroboration, as well as to capture tacit knowledge and effects not usually captured by more traditional impact assessment models.”
The impact assessment found that the multi-partner, relationships-driven approach of the Multi-Country Study helped to maximise impact in Peru. The assessment also found that national ownership of the research process was important in ensuring that the findings were specific to Peru, a key finding considering the country’s geographic diversity and multi-culturalism, and also helped ensure national ownership and data sovereignty.
Dr Morton’s assessment also set out to test the Research Contribution Framework (Morton, 2015), developed to examine how research uptake and use ‘contributes’ to policy and practice change, in a low- and middle-income country. The Research Contribution Framework requires key partners to agree the main mechanisms through which the research might impact on policy or practice, which are then tested, along with key risks and assumptions.
In describing the Research Contribution Framework, Albright explained the framework has been adapted from contribution analysis, using the idea of ‘contribution’ to help explain the ways research is taken up and used to influence policy and practice as well as to articulate wider benefits. The Framework provides an empirical basis to focus on research users and to better assess the value of the research process as well as the final outcomes, enabling the team to capture more intangible impacts such as empowerment, ownership, trust and the added value of strategic partnerships which had occurred along the way.
By using this approach, the Study contributed to a number of policy and programme changes in Peru, including the passage of a law banning corporal punishment in all settings. Through this impact assessment, the Research Contribution Framework was also found to be adaptable and effective in low- and middle-income countries, and could be used to assess research impact in other contexts. Similar to other impact studies (Oliver et al 2014) there are several key factors that helped to unlock impact in this case:
Starting out with an intention to make a difference
New to this study, the value of it being a multi-country study was also identified as a factor which maximised impact. The fact that the study allowed participants to understand how the drivers of violence affecting children in Peru compare to other countries was important, with one saying they ‘don’t feel alone’.
Key findings from the UNICEF Innocenti study on the drivers of violence affecting children in Peru:
Read a case study report on the violence affecting children study in Peru (Spanish) and Dr. Morton’s full impact assessment report. This article was adapted from a story in the AESIS September newsletter.