Impact narratives working group

Purpose: To ensure that interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary education and research successes are documented and publicized.

Members: Ken Taylor (chair), Iain Gordon, Dan Walker, Derrick Armstrong, Allanah Ryan, Tayanah O’Donnell
with assistance from Eleanor Robson (Future Earth Australia) and Kate Hayes (June 2020 workshop facilitation)

Activities 2020:

May 2020: Developed a proposal for a series of three workshops to tackle the theme: “Greater impact through inter- and transdisciplinary research and education: building skills, value and the case for this new way of working.”

This replaced the planned workshop at the 2020 Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress, which was to have been held in Brisbane, Australia in June, and which had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

June 2020: Online workshop held (first in the series) on “Communicating in stories – strengthening this core ID/TD skill.” There was an in invitation to register (PDF 186KB), which described the process, an agenda (159KB) and a background YouTube video (13 minutes):

There were 27 participants (PDF 108KB): 17 leaders of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research organisations, along with 10 interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers and practitioners.

The online success stories were used as a starting point, leading to key discussion threads about:

  • Who is contributing to the narrative? Everyone recognises that to write an impactful impact narrative the right people need to construct it, meaning that an inclusive process is required, drawing on voices of researchers and stakeholders, including Indigenous peoples in both groups. Key questions remain, including: How can this be done well? Who will contribute to this narrative? How are the contributions best brought together? Who is absent (often Indigenous peoples or those who have engaged in a small but important way)? Who will the storytellers be (eg someone affected by the outcome or a collaborative effort with multiple authors to capture various facets)?
  • The nature of the narrative. A good narrative focuses on character, plot and climax. Two templates were discussed (PDF 152KB).  While these were seen as a good place to start, it is important to include the narrative’s heart, values, those involved as characters showing why they care, subplots, dead-ends, red herrings, along with both successes and failures.
  • Who is the audience for the narrative? This is a key determinant for how the story is told, as there is more than one way to tell the story.

Drafts of several impact narratives were produced. The workshop was seen as laying a solid foundation for the next in the series.

For an archive of the workshop notifications on the website see: https://nitro-oceania.net/activities/working-groups/impact-narratives-working-group/sri2020-workshop/.