On the 12th November 2020, The Impact Initiative hosted a webinar on ‘Celebrating the Successes and lessons of the Raising Learning Outcomes Programme’ which was attended by 42 participants representing 23 ESRC-FCDO funded Raising Learning Outcomes (RLO) grants as well as staff from ESRC, FCDO and the Impact Initiative.
The RLO Programme was launched in 2014 to commission world-class and cutting-edge social science research that addresses key questions on learning outcomes within education systems in developing countries. Part of a broader strategic partnership between the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID) and ESRC, a total of £20 million will be awarded through three research calls, focused on effective teaching, challenging contexts and accountability, respectively. The Programme aims to build the evidence on critical policy areas which currently constrain education systems in developing countries. To do this, the Programme will fund a Portfolio of research to increase understanding of how complex relationships between elements of the education system, the context in which they are embedded, and the dynamics operating within that system impact on efforts to raise learning outcomes for all.
In preparation for the webinar, reported outcomes were ‘harvested’ from RLO grant profiles on Gateway to Research, following an Outcome Harvesting approach to build a picture of the diverse processes and pathways to impact across the portfolio. These outcomes were analysed, categorized and mapped using Kumu, a systems mapping platform to create a ‘meta-impact pathway’ which highlighted the rich and varied outcomes across the RLO portfolio, ranging from stakeholder capacity-building, network-strengthening among advocates, building new conceptual understanding and direct policy influence across .
The results of the mapping exercise were presented at the webinar and participants were invited them to explore the Kumu map for themselves. During breakout groups, researchers from across the RLO cohorts reflected on their impact pathways and the choices and adjustments to respond to the question; “With the benefit of hindsight, what is the top piece of advice that you would give to yourself at the start of your project.” This generated a series of rich and frank reflections on the lessons learned, challenges faced and concern for the impact of Covid-19 on local partners and marginalised groups. These discussions also highlighted the complementarity of research across the cohorts and the many achievements and contributions made over the past 6 years with important insights generated into how education research enables processes that support real change in the classroom.