Planning for Impact

19 March 2018

Cohort 2's Rhys Comissiong and Cohort 3's Robin Hamer attended the Planning for Impact workshop. Robin explains;

On the 12th March 2018 an event was held at Loughborough University by Red Vector Ltd (an independent energy consultancy firm specialising in interactive learning). The context of this workshop was regarding the energy sector, which is applicable to myself as I work with EDF energy – nuclear.

Since the energy sector is being transformed, new solutions are being created as various organisations seek to address society's demand for energy in ways that reduce its environmental footprint. This creates opportunities for researchers - working with those organisations and individuals who are seeking to deliver innovative, low carbon energy solutions. Creating solutions to address this need is not just about technology, it’s about policy, economics, society and the business models that bring all of these together; thus providing an excellent route to create impact from work.

The one-day workshop took the form of an interactive strategic game which was designed to give an experience of identifying, prioritising and managing relationships with those needing research outputs, in the hope of creating impact. The game was fun whilst giving experience of making effective, quick decisions around stakeholder engagement, delivering effective communication of work and most importantly delivering high quality research. The simulated research environment saw teams of 3 undertake 5 years of energy-related research starting from the point you finish your PhD. Resources (time and money) were given and had to be spent wisely to build influence, create academic excellence and in turn create impact. There were various routes of doing this within the game – Public funding, industrial sponsorship, academic excellence exposure and general expose e.g. building exposure from a website. In addition, various elements of chance within the game influenced how careers progressed, based on what we did and the opportunities created.

I learnt a few important points from this workshop. Firstly, I found the workshop highlighted how important taking an impact-based approach is to project development. Secondly, how important being proactive and engaging with the right stakeholders is. Finally, it was interesting to see how many different avenues of exposure there are for work to gain impact, albeit novel ways such as producing videos, running research blogs etc. On another note, I felt the environment of the game allowed us to enhance personal skills such as: team work, negotiation skills and strategic thinking.

Since this workshop was a pilot of the game, there were some improvements that could be made to make it even better. A feedback session at the end gave us an opportunity to give thoughts and opinions on the successes and shortcomings of the game which I hope the creators will develop. All in all, it was a day well spent and I will be implementing points learned from the session within my own PhD.

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