Making an Impact
A Primer on Impact Reporting
What is IMPACT?
Why WE Care
What Makes a Good Impact Statement
Reporting Potential Impact
Harvesting the Good Ones
We Wrote These Things. Now what?
What is IMPACT?
the difference your programs are making in peoples lives. In more technical terms, impact is the reportable and verifiable difference a land-grant program makes in the lives of citizens.
Impact reporting lets us:
- illustrate the importance of the land-grant effort
- provide public accountability
- provide program accountability
- show a return on investment
- foster a better public understanding of the whole picture of research, teaching, and service
- obtain future funding
- increase awareness of all the programs within the institution
An impact statement is:
A brief summary, in lay terms, of the economic, environmental, and/or social impact of our efforts. It states accomplishments and their payoff to society. In short, an impact statement answers the questions:
Your impact audience is:
- the general public
- local governing bodies
- state officials
- federal officials
- your peers
- external funding sources
- industry representatives
These audience members have in common the following:
- exercise some kind of control over your programs
- generally want only information vital to decisions
- have lots of competition for their attention
- are asking for quantifiable differences brought about by investments in your program
Why WE Care
Impact reporting is important to our administrators because it:
- illustrates our accountability
- improves visibility of programs (local, state, national)
- generates support materials for lobbying
- is a repository of anecdotes for speeches or letters
- helps organize their focus for initiatives and program themes
- helps build greater understanding of their programs by the public
- is easier to sell science and education programs when they emphasize outcomes
- results in a product they can reuse
Impact reporting is important to our faculty and field staff because:
- this kind of reporting makes sense to the public
- they're contributing to scientific literacy (or agricultural literacy, or food literacy, or....)
- it cuts the number of urgent requests they get for program examples, story ideas, etc...
- their work will get more exposure
- their work is exposed to potential funders
Impact reporting is important to YOU because:
- it is a source of story ideas
- it adds depth to your reporting
- it gets everybody doing similar reports, making it easier to generate communication tools
- it makes it easier to plan awareness campaigns
- Elements of an Impact Statement
What Makes a Good Impact Statement?
Remember, an impact statement is a brief summary, in lay terms, of the social, environmental and/or economic impact of your efforts. It states accomplishments and their payoff to society.
A good impact statement answers the questions "So what?" and "Who cares."
A good impact statement illustrates change in at least one of the following areas:
- economic value or efficiency
- environmental quality
- societal/individual well being
Specific elements of an impact statement are:
Economic value or efficiency:
Example: Five years ago, Cornpone County pork producers spent $17 more than the state average to raise a market hog. We helped them improve their record keeping and production practices, and costs dropped $20 to $3.19 BELOW the state average. Each farm's profit increased $345,000 over five years, bringing more hogs, more jobs, and more spending to the county.
Example: Chopped waste paper is an economical substitute for wood chips commonly used as bedding by the horse industry. Our scientists have found that the paper absorbs moisture better too. By using some of the 76 million tons of paper Americans throw away each year, researchers can reduce landfill demands, save a few trees and keep horses comfy all at once.
Social/individual well being (health):
Example: No standards exist for wooden basketball, dance and aerobics floors. So, we're setting them. Our scientists study the role of floor type and construction in chronic-use injuries that often make people stop exercising. Computer models predict how a floor reacts to various forces or environmental changes. Those predictions, and what doctors know about chronic athletic injuries, bring a prescription for safer exercise for athletes of all ages and abilities.
Reporting Potential Impact
Potential impact should be considered, especially in basic research and teaching or youth education work. It is useful when impact is hard to define in quantitative terms. Potential impact should include the following information:
- the most likely benefactors of the research or education project
- what you expect the outcome to be and why
- an idea of how long it would take to reach expected outcomes
- real or hypothetical examples of expected outcomes
Impact areas hard to define and quantify:
- youth and families
- basic research
- campus classroom efforts
- long-run efforts
Focus on potential impact by using examples that report accomplishments to date that are tied to potential impact.
Anecdotes are our friends! Consider these for hard-to-quantify statements:
Anecdotal, single, quantifiable examples of behavior change or knowledge acquisition that can be extrapolated to a quantifiable broader audience in relationship to an already quantified problem can make effective impact statements. (Just don't write them this way!)
Example of a potential impact statement: We bought special software for classroom computers. The students learned to analyze the total true cost of producing food products. Using the same software industry uses makes these students ready for the job market and ready to enhance the food economy.
Example of an anecdotal impact statement: Farmer James says the university saved her life. A radio report on rabies symptoms in cattle was produced and distributed. Farmer heard on her local station and thought she had a cow with symptoms. Called the vet -- no. A second opinion -- no rabies. Cow dies and the farmer sends it for testing. Test positive for transmittable rabies. The farmer got immediate treatment. And credits the radio report with describing things well enough to save her life.
Harvesting the Good Ones
To develop a quality impact statement, consider using notes or collected information and list the following:
- the kind of impact (social, economic, environmental, etc.)
- most likely audiences
- any potential impact
- any good examples/illustrations
- quantifiable facts
- missing facts
Getting the Statements Down
Write them in rough-draft form using the information listed previously. The first "statements" can be longer than ones you may actually submit to the National Database, but these can serve as repositories for details.
Honing the Statements
If you are submitting statements to the National Database, there will be a form to follow and the statements should be massaged to fit that form. The typical form will include:
Impact Area: (research, teaching, or extension)
Issue: What's the topic or problem this will address, typically related to the 18 or so subject areas defined as focus areas by USDA/CSREES
What's Been Done: (what has been done by YOUR institution in this area with specific projects)
Impact: (what have YOUR programs done to answer questions, provide solutions, address the issue)
Funding Sources: (list all including outside agencies, in-house sources, government funds, etc.)
Contacts: (list names of faculty involved in the project along with their titles, e-mail and postal addresses, and phone and fax numbers)
We Wrote These Things. Now What?
Uses for impact statements:
- regular reports to general public
- regular reports to officials
- targeted reports to people or groups interested in a particular topic
- to attract funding
- as tips for media
- to show university response to an issue
- as part of an overall project tracking system
- to find common grounds for collaboration with other land-grants, agencies, businesses
- to quickly update on-going projects
- as examples for university marketing efforts
Use impact examples:
- for news releases
- on web pages
- in promotional brochures
- in speeches
- in letters to supporters
Target your impact audience:
Match the impact statement and its presentation to whomever you want to understand that activity. You can use all kinds of media and packaging themes to present this info.
- Impact reporting does NOT replace:
- personal contact within your university
- personal contact outside your university
- a detailed scientific report
- other communication or P.R. tools