Impact literacy 

Impact literacy is a term expressing core understanding of how impact operates.  It is the basis for a growing body of work by myself and David Phipps and is based on our combined experiences of supporting impact and knowledge mobilisation in the UK and Canada. It reflects our view that impact can only be pursued meaningfully if people are empowered to understand how it works.

In brief, impact literacy (see diagram) is the combination of understanding:

  1. The identification, assessment, evidencing and articulation of impact endpoints (“what”)
  2. The practices that create impact (“how”)
  3. The successful integration of these by research impact practitioners (“who”)

Impact can be pursued without being literate, but this is likely to lead to poor execution, missed opportunities, poor resource use and misaligned or underachieved outcomes. More specifically:

  1. HOW and WHO in the absence of WHAT leads to insufficient understanding of the impact endpoints, effects, indicators and evidence.
  2. WHO and WHAT in the absence of HOW leads to insufficient understanding of the bespoke and nuanced processes by which impact is achieved
  3. HOW and WHAT in the absence of WHO leads to insufficient understanding of the roles and skills required to plan, generate, execute and assess impact


For these reasons, we are committed to developing impact literacy across the research sector.  This body of work forms the basis of training, conference talks and strategy development, and is underpinning a range of upcoming research.

For the paper and associated materials, see:

Bayley, J.E. and Phipps, D. (2017). Building the concept of impact literacy. In press,  Evidence and Policy