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Documenting Impact

An Impact Case Study of Anthropological Collaboration in Tobacco Control

Andrew Russell and Sue Lewis

In this article we consider the 'impact case study' (ICS) as a specific kind of document, one which, as part of the U.K.'s Research Excellence Framework (REF), enforces a common template for the description and measurement of the social and economic effects of research in U.K. higher education. We track the development of an ICS describing anthropological research in tobacco control which, after many iterations, was not submitted as part of the REF. We ask 'what is impact?' in cases where anthropological research is based on principles of collaboration and serendipity rather than the mechanistic 'research > translation > impact > measurement' model which an ICS is expected to follow. What is included and what excluded by the strictures of such a model? We are generally supportive of the impact agenda, feeling that university resources and activities have a vital role to play in progressive social change. However, the way 'impact' is recorded, appraised and measured in an ICS only captures a small proportion of the effects of anthropological research, and encourages particular forms of public engagement while discounting others.

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Abigail Baim-Lance and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros

Academic funding bodies are increasingly measuring research impact using accountability and reward assessments. Scholars have argued that frameworks attempting to measure the use-value of knowledge production could end up influencing the selection of research topics, limiting research agendas, and privileging linear over complex research designs. Our article responds to these concerns by calling upon insights from anthropology to reconceptualise impact. We argue that, to conduct socially beneficial studies, impact needs to be turned from a product to an inclusive process of engagement. Anthropology's epistemologically and methodologically rich tradition of ethnography offers a particularly apposite set of tools to achieve this goal. We present three concrete examples of how we have used ethnography to impact on the work we carry out, particularly in shaping multidisciplinary team-based research approaches.

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From philanthropy to impact investing

The case of Luxembourg

Shirlita Espinosa

English abstract: This article analyzes diaspora philanthropy by Filipino migrants in Luxembourg. It shows the evolution of migrant organizations’ established philanthropic practices as reflected in the history and profile of Filipino immigration to Luxembourg. Recently, however, direct remittances have been challenged by the philanthro-capitalist orientation of Meso Impact Finance, securing capital investment for small enterprises. Luxembourg’s impact investing in the Philippines is a result of intersecting social forces: dominance of migration-development discourse, ideological appeal of philanthro-capitalism, strong financial institutions in Luxembourg, and the tight-knit Filipino community. However, traditional philanthropy remains popular despite the undermining of direct, non-profit remittances of migrants as shortsighted, unsustainable development tool. It remains to be seen whether Meso Impact Finance will gain a stronger hold in the market and replace direct philanthropic remittances.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo analiza la filantropía de la diáspora realizada por inmigrantes filipinos en Luxemburgo. Usando métodos etnográficos se muestra la evolución de las prácticas filantrópicas establecidas por las organizaciones de migrantes y como éstas se reflejan en la historia y el perfil de la inmigración filipina a Luxemburgo. Recientemente, las remesas directas han sido cuestionadas por la orientación filantro-capitalista de meso impacto financiero, asegurando inversiones de capital para pequeñas empresas. No obstante, la filantropía tradicional sigue siendo popular a pesar del debilitamiento de las remesas directas y sin fines de lucro de los migrantes, como una herramienta de corta visión, insostenible e irracional. Queda por observarse si el meso impacto financiero obtendrá un mayor control en el mercado y reemplazará las remesas filantrópicas directas.

French abstract: Cet article présente des données ethnographiques et des analyses critiques liées à la philanthropie de la diaspora philippine au Luxembourg. Il montre que l’évolution des organisations migrantes établit des pratiques philanthropiques comme le reflètent l’histoire et le profil de l’immigration philippine au Luxembourg. Récemment cependant les transferts d’argent directs ont été concurrencés par l’orientation philantrocapitalistique de la mésofinance à impact social qui sécurise l’investissement de capitaux pour les petites entreprises. Pourtant, malgré l’ébranlement des transferts d’argent directs et non-lucratifs des migrants comme outil de développement à court terme et non pérenne la philanthropie traditionnelle reste populaire. Il reste à voir si la mésofinance à impact social gagnera un ancrage plus fort sur les marchés et si elle remplacera les transferts d’argent philanthropiques directs.

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Workshop Scribbles, Policy Work and Impact

Anthropological Sensibilities in Praxis at an FASD Workshop

Michelle Stewart

This article reports on a workshop that was held with frontline workers in Canada and discusses the role of anthropological sensibilities as they inform research, community engagement and policy outcomes. The workshop brought together frontline workers to discuss foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a complex and lifelong disability – one that often raises social-justice concerns. The goal was to facilitate a space in which participants could share their experiences and potentially bring about better outcomes for people living with this disability. The article focuses on the workshop in relationship to anthropological sensibilities, anchored in lateral research practices, with attention to poly-vocality and relational ways of understanding, all of which inform our practice and potential impacts. This article critically analyses the role of applied research as it is informed by other disciplines and concurrently constrained by different forces.

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A Crystal Ball for Forests?

Analyzing the Social-Ecological Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management over the Long Term

Daniel C. Miller, Pushpendra Rana and Catherine Benson Wahlén

Citizens, governments, and donors are increasingly demanding better evidence on the effectiveness of development policies and programs. Efforts to ensure such accountability in the forest sector confront the challenge that the results may take years, even decades, to materialize, while forest-related interventions usually last only a short period. This article reviews the broad interdisciplinary literature assessing forest conservation and management impacts on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation in developing countries. It emphasizes the importance of indicators and identifies disconnects between a rapidly growing body of research based on quasi-experimental designs and studies taking a more critical, ethnographic approach. The article also highlights a relative lack of attention on longer-term impacts in both of these areas of scholarship. We conclude by exploring research frontiers in the assessment of the impacts of forest-related interventions with long incubation periods, notably the development of predictive proxy indicators (PPIs).

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Beyond the Academy

Applying Anthropological Research, A Case Study of Demonstrating Impact in the U.K. 2014 REF

Neil Jarman and Dominic Bryan

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework sought for the first time to assess the impact that research was having beyond the boundaries of the university and the wider academic sphere. While the REF continued the approach of previous research assessment exercises in attempting to measure the overall quality of research and teaching within the higher-education sector, it also expected institutions to evidence how some of their research had had 'an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia' (REF 2012: 48). This article provides a case study in how researchers in one U.K. anthropology department were able to demonstrate the impact of their work in the public sphere successfully as part of this major audit exercise.

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Alexandra Howson

This article reports on the incorporation of visual material as a tool for learning sociology and discusses a poster assignment introduced as a means of assessment in an academic context committed to innovative learning strategies and to teaching and learning enhancement. The article draws on an evaluation of using the poster assignment to assess student learning and argues that visual images can provide valid and insightful ways of 'telling about society' which challenge the reliance on text as a means of teaching and learning sociology. The article explores the context in which visual materials are used in teaching and learning sociology and their impact on and significance for assessment and learning.

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Olga A. Murashko

Indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East are increasingly demanding that proponents of industrial projects carry out an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza (anthropological expert review or ethno-cultural impact assessment) of their project, in order to assess the socio-economic and cultural impacts on local and indigenous communities living close to project sites. However, there is a lack of an appropriate legislative framework in Russia, no established methodology, and a lack of understanding among stakeholders about what an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza is. The established Russian environmental impact assessment process (requiring a state ecological expert review of projects) does not include assessment of socio-economic and cultural impacts on communities. In this article the author discusses the concept of etnologicheskaia ekspertiza and the context that gave rise to it, shares her practical experience, and makes recommendations for establishing a legal framework for etnologicheskaia ekspertiza, with reference to comparable Western concepts, such as social and cultural impact assessment.

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Grégory Dallemagne, Víctor del Arco, Ainhoa Montoya and Marta Pérez

This commentary seeks to engage the issue of 'impact' in social anthropology by scrutinising the topic of open access. Drawing on the discussions that took place at the international conference 'FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond', held in October 2014 in Madrid, we suggest that addressing the topic of open access allows a two-fold goal. On one hand, it elucidates that public debates about open access rely on a rather minimalist notion of openness that does not yield an adequate understanding of what is at stake in those debates. On the other, we argue that expanding the notion of openness does not only allow us to revisit the debate concerning what we do as academics, how we do it and what its value is, but also to do so going beyond current notions of 'impact' and 'public value' underpinned by the principle of economic efficiency in a context of increasingly reduced research funds.

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Samantha Page and Marilyn Strathern

As part of my ‘impact editor’ role for Anthropology in Action I approached Professor Marilyn Strathern to seek her personal reflections on the impact agenda related to her own experiences working as head of department, at Manchester and Cambridge Universities, as member and then chair of two Research Assessment Exercise panels, her anthropological research in Papua New Guinea and her work on audit culture. I wanted to find out how Professor Strathern’s work has been engaged with policy and practice or has influenced it. I also discussed my own PhD research with Professor Strathern, including the challenges of being an early career researcher, as well as seeking advice about the best way to disseminate research findings to inform policy and to have ‘impact’.