Webinar: Strategies for Doing Research with Impact

Webinar: Strategies for Doing Research with Impact

Sustainability centre staff and directors from around the world discuss three approaches for doing research with impact.
Chris Gagne September 24, 2017
Trying to change the world through research? You’re not alone. Sustainability centre staff and directors around the world share this challenge. On March 4, 2014, they met on a webinar to discuss strategies for doing research with impact. If you’d like to participate in future interactive webinars, join the Sustainability Centres Community.

The webinar’s featured speakers included Prof. William Young (University of Leeds), Pam Laughland (Network for Business Sustainability), Tim Faveri (Tim Hortons Inc.) and Dr. John Robinson (University of British Columbia). Centres participating in the webinar came from many countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Costa Rica. This primer summarizes their insights.

Three Approaches to Doing Research with Impact

Research often fails to impact practice: the so-called “research-practice gap.”  Centres at universities around the world are fighting to increase impact through creative research approaches.  Webinar participants identified three such approaches, and gave advice for those seeking to do something similar.

 1. Bi-lateral collaboration

The University of Leeds’ Business & Organizations for Sustainable Societies Research Group (BOSS) spent three years building a strong research relationship with retailer Asda, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart. Their current collaborative research places a post-doctoral researcher within Asda’s operations to develop tools for motivating consumers to reduce household food waste.

Prof. William Young, BOSS Director, shares process advice for developing this type of bi-lateral research relationship. 
To learn more about impactful bi-lateral research, contact Prof. William Young atc.w.young@leeds.ac.uk.

2. Multi-lateral collaboration

The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) at Ivey Business School launched its Leadership Council in 2008.  The Council is a long-term research partnership with 18 Canadian businesses, government bodies and non-government organizations. NBS facilitates research co-creation between Council members and international research teams on topics relevant to business, and disseminates findings broadly.  Pam Laughland, NBS Managing Director, and Tim Faveri, Director of Sustainability and Responsibility at Tim Hortons Inc. (a founding Council member) share insights on key steps in this process: 
3. Change institutional norms

The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is now a living sustainability laboratory at the University of British Columbia.  Dr. John Robinson, CIRS co-founder, describes the centre’s creation as a 10-year process of deep institutional change.  The process was challenging and educational.  Dr. Robinson faced five major obstacles: 
To learn more about creating impact through institutional change, contact Dr. John Robinson at john.robinson@ubc.ca.
Source: Bansal, P., Bertels, S., Ewart, T., MacConnachie, P., & O’Brien, J. 2012. Bridging the Research-Practice Gap. Academy of Management Perspectives, 26: 73-92.

Centres Community Webinar Series

Regular webinars allow direct dialogue between centres from around the world. Webinar topics reflect member challenges and focus on topics related to sustainability teaching, research or practice.  This document summarizes discussion on research with impact during a webinar hosted in March 2014.

About the Sustainability Centres Community (SCC)

Hundreds of sustainability centres at business schools around the world are dedicated to driving sustainable business. These centres teach, conduct research and work with industry to facilitate social and environmental change. The SCC advances collaboration between centres by allowing them to (1) find one another using the searchable directory, (2) share opportunities on a Community forum and (3) share best practices through regular webinars and success stories published monthly.  Add your centre to the Community today!
Join the Sustainability Centres Community

Related Resources


Advice on managing a research centre from sustainability centre directors gathered at the 2016 NBS Sustainability Centres Workshop at INSEAD.

Chelsea Hicks-Webster

Advice on doing research that impacts practice from business school sustainability centre leaders around the world.

Chelsea Hicks-Webster

NBS seeks to bridge the gap between research and business practice by providing researchers with resources on how to co-create knowledge with practitioners.

Garima Sharma