Over the last four weeks I had the pleasure to participate in a training course provided by DANIDA Fellowship Centre. The course focused on engagement, impact and influencing, or in other words how research can be turned into useful expertise. For me it was the second time to attend a course with such a focus, having earlier attended the one provided by the U.S. Bridging the Gap project. It was a brilliant opportunity to reconnect not only to the debate on expertise in practical terms, but to learn more about the tools and tactics employed in particular by non-governmental organizations and development workers to plan for impact and “stakeholder” engagement but also how to record outcomes.
While many of these tools are developed against the “project logic” and ideas of documenting “measurable impact”, they are still productive to reflect on the various ways that academics can act as experts and translate their knowledge, for instance, through capacity building, networking, education, or even providing more policy oriented technical tools. Such tools might be concepts, narratives or policy options and scenarios, and hence go far beyond from the old fashioned ideas, that scientific research primarily develops ‘facts’ or ‘causal’ knowledge claims. Engaging with non-academic audience also does not necessarily imply to work with governments or power elites, but very well mean to prioritize work with NGOs and communities directly.