NWA-ORC insights… Part 3: Different roads towards impact

NWA-ORC is the largest funding programme related to the Dutch National Science Agenda. All research topics are welcomed, as long as they are connected to the NWA. The essence of the NWA-ORC programme is centered around having impact. What exactly is meant with this term and what are you supposed to write in the proposal for this programme?

theory of change NWA - from NWO

Plan versus Outlook

In a detailed document, NWO provides an additional description of what they call the ‘roads to impact’. Project proposals are categorized according two impact approaches: the impact plan or the impact outlook approach. Which one of the two is applicable to your project idea depends on the stage the proposed research tasks are focused on. Is the project geared towards creating a scientific and societal breakthrough (then Impact Plan) or is it solely focused on creating a breakthrough in science (then Impact Outlook)? Read more on this distinction in our other blog post on breakthroughs

Describing your impact

At the core of any potential impact lie, what this programme calls, ‘productive interactions’ between (societal) stakeholders and researchers. A strong consortium thus includes partners from the entire innovation chain.

In describing the Impact Plan of the project, you need to explain how these productive interactions will lead to changes in science and society. In this plan, you are supposed to use a step-wise reflective approach and develop a ‘theory of change’, including a thorough problem analysis of the status quo and an impact pathway. The latter basically means an expectation grounded in practice of how project outputs lead to outcomes on the larger organizational or systems level and eventually contribute to a change in society, long after the project is finished.

In describing the Impact Outlook, you do just exactly that: giving an outlook on the potential impact the scientific breakthroughs have for the entire field of science and to which societal breakthroughs they eventually could lead. In the proposal a description is expected of the necessary steps that need to be taken to create such potential societal breakthrough in the future and how the project will make use of ‘surprise’ opportunities for impact that are not anticipated yet.

Can we help?

Struggling with the impact section of your proposal? We can guide you through the process with brainstorm session(s) with you and your consortium or deliver an online impact session with your consortium’s societal partners.

Author: Linde van Ittersum

Co-founder and Research Funding Professional at Fundament.

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