How Open Innovation in Science (OIS) initiatives 
lead to societal change

The LBG OIS Center strategically experiments with open methods in scientific practice to pave the way for innovation. Many LBG OIS initiatives (such as Crowdsourcing or PPIE) provide citizens a platform to engage in research agenda setting and research processes. Involvement and engagement aim to encourage more societally relevant research results, as well as increased uptake of research. But: how can the impact of engagement become visible? What contribution do the initiatives of LBG OIS Center have to achieve these goals?

The LBG OIS Center set out to identify the effect of OIS initiatives and capture them in an impact model based on the Theory of Change. The impact model makes the pathways leading to societal impact explicit, tangible and measurable.



To tackle the challenge of creating an impact model, the LBG OIS Center opened up the development process. Together with a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders and supported by the organization Measury / Institut für partizipative Sozialforschung, two workshops were held. In the first workshop, researchers, practitioners and the public (e.g. patients) were involved, while the second was attended by several national and international decision-makers and representatives of the media and funding bodies. Within the workshops, participants co-developed the pathways to impact by answering the question “What effect should the LBG OIS initiatives for involvement and engagement have?”. Afterwards, the results of the two workshops were synthesized and underwent several feedback cycles with workshop participants, as well as additional internal and external experts.

OIS Impact Model_LBG 2019


The result is a comprehensive impact model that shows how LBG OIS initiatives for involvement and engagement should be designed and what change processes they should bring about in order to achieve the two main goals of more relevant research and increased research uptake.

The Impact Model figure illustrates the gradual unfolding of societal impact using images of a scenic trail: At the bottom of the figure, quality criteria demonstrate how OIS initiatives should be designed to allow for effective involvement. Together, the quality criteria ensure that stakeholders are identified and addressed in line with their interests and knowledge. These quality criteria, represented in the form of light blue rivers feed into the dark blue lake, which demonstrates effective involvement of stakeholders in research.

Once involvement takes place, change processes are set in motion in all people involved in the research process. 

The first step to increased societal impact is a change in personal awareness and competencies (light green area) of all participants of the process: for example, researchers may learn more about true needs of the public, while participants acquire research skills or experience empowerment. 

This change in personal awareness leads to behavioral change: through involvement, participants and researchers may, for example, start to co-develop goals and visions of research projects (green area). 

Finally, the change in behavior leads to a change in life circumstances of all participants (dark green area): for example, by engaging non-academic stakeholders, researchers are able to add new quality to their research while participants may experience meaning or a practical use through involvement.

Together, these effects help research reach new heights, demonstrated by the hot-air balloon launching into the sky: research results are of higher societal relevance through the engagement of societal actors. They address true societal needs and society is more likely to take up research results.

outlook: how the impact model will be used

The OIS impact model makes the effect of involvement and engagement activities visible and transparent and thus guides the design of all OIS initiatives. In addition, the impact model can be used to evaluate existing OIS initiatives in order to identify in how far they achieve the impact they intend to and adjust them accordingly.

Together with exemplar OIS research groups and their stakeholders, the LBG OIS Center is currently in the process of co-developing a research design with a set of impact metrics to assess its OIS activities. After a pilot evaluation within the research groups, the qualitative and quantitative instruments can be applied to all OIS involvement and engagement initiatives.


If you are interested in the co-development process and application of the impact model, please get in touch:
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