Dr. Tamara G. J. Leech, the Division Chair of SSSP, invited me to write an article for the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Community Research and Development Spring 2014 newsletter. The division operates at the intersection of practice and research with a focus on community development, health and social change. Here’s a reprint of that article.

Every academic experiences moments in their career when they question if their research is having an impact. Whether a graduate student or tenured faculty member, you may have asked yourself, “why am I not out there making a difference?” Many of us entered the academy to pursue our love for science and research, and to use that research to impact social, health, and economic challenges in our communities or the world at large. The pace of research, writing, and publication can be frustrating for such academics committed to social change and social impact.  If this is a recurring question for you, consider whether your current work context best aligns with your skills, strengths and desired ways of working.  You may find that managing programs, influencing policy or some other applied work is a better fit for you.  However, my experience coaching PhDs has revealed that academics often succumb to this frustration because they are unaware of the value and role of their research outside of the academy.

Here are a few tips to help you “get out there” with your research:

1. Research provides a foundation for innovation in government, nonprofit, corporate and philanthropic sectors.  When you disseminate your research through conference presentations, academic publications, and popular publications you inform and influence decision makers.  So get to writing, publishing or speaking!

2. Identify institutions that work on similar issues and questions that drive your research. How do they approach their work? What methods do they use? How do they talk about and frame their work?  Learning how diverse sectors approach these issues will show you where your research fits in the broader ecosystem of changemaking.

3. Connect with practitioners, decision makers and influencers at these institutions.  You can connect with these changemakers by disseminating your research, meeting them at industry and professional conferences, or connecting with them on social media. These new relationships will expand your network and your platform for disseminating your work.

Research, while not the only way, is a powerful vehicle for being “out there” to make a difference and influence change.  Do you feel the commitment or pressure to make difference in your work and research?  Tell us about your approach in the comment section below.

Here’s a pdf of the article in case you’d like to check out the newsletter and some of the job listings there.

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