Introducing our theory of change

Brightly coloured abstract paint on canvas

Our theory of change is a key component of our strategy, setting out the steps we need to take to achieve our ambitions and deliver our vision.

In a blog post in July last year I introduced our new vision for arts and humanities research. Our vision sets out the richness of arts and humanities research and the possibilities that it holds for the future.

Since launching our strategic delivery plan in September, I have mentioned in various places that these plans work hand in hand with our organisational vision, and are underpinned by our theory of change – a roadmap which takes us through the steps that we need to take in order to achieve that vision. I’m delighted to be able to share that this theory of change is now available on our website.

The theory of change articulates the differences that we want to make as an organisation, with a focus on new activity and on changing the way we behave, and how we interact with our partners and our research community. The theory of change has been created in consultation with staff and in partnership with key stakeholders and, while being a statement of ambition, it is grounded firmly in the reality of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) resources and is designed to make best use of our strengths. AHRC is leading the way in the development and use of a theory of change, and we hope that this pioneering initiative brings benefits both to our research community and to the disciplines with which we collaborate.

Our theory of change sets out our drivers for change, which reflect the real differences which we can see arts and humanities research making to individuals and to wider society, and AHRC’s strength as a catalyst for bringing ideas and people together. This builds on our analysis of the Research Excellence Framework 2021 and the evidence of impact it has collected.

Our theory of change identifies six priorities – transforming our organisation, discovering ourselves, contemporary challenges, cultural assets, creative economy, and equality, diversity, and inclusion – and sets out what we will do in each of these areas to deliver the changes that we want to see.

At the heart of this is something I believe very strongly and which underpins my approach at AHRC: that the privilege we have as a funder needs to be translated into vibrant acts of co-creation with the whole of the arts and humanities ecosystem. We need to find the new and unexpected spaces where excellence can flourish, found sustainable and equitable structures, foster their success, follow the ideas which come from genuinely open dialogue, and fan the fires of inspiration and innovation in our communities of knowledge and practice.

I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in arts and humanities research, and in how AHRC intends to make a difference in our world, to take a look. As an organisation we will be using the theory of change to help us to prioritise our actions and our activities at every level, from the day-to-day to helping us to make our most important strategic decisions. We hope that it will be a useful reference for all our staff and also to help us work with partners to achieve these objectives that we hope will bring benefits to us all. Like all good theories of change, this is the start of our conversation.

Top image:  Credit: ivanastar, iStock, Getty Images Plus, via Getty Images

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