Comparing Societal Impact Planning and Evaluation Approaches across Four Urban Living Labs (in Food-Energy-Water Systems)

Daniel Black, Sue Charlesworth, Maria Ester Dal Poz, Erika Cristina Francisco, Adina Paytan, Ian Roderick, Timo Von Wirth, Kevin Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Achieving societal impact, as opposed to academic impact, is a growing area of focus for the research community globally. Central to this changing mission is the focus on multiple interconnected complex systems and the need for research that is not just interdisciplinary, but also transdisciplinary and grounded in stakeholder co-production. This document compares multiple approaches to impact planning and evaluation across four newly formed urban living labs in Sao Paolo (Brazil), Western Cape (South Africa), Bristol (UK) and Rotterdam (Netherlands), each of which sought to address societal issues linked to the food-energy-water nexus. A comparison matrix and a disaggregated impact table are derived from a comprehensive review of key definitions. These
new tools were completed by each ULL alongside a post hoc pathway to impact statements. Comparisons are presented and discussed, the strengths and weaknesses of this approach are considered and opportunities for improvement in societal impact planning and evaluation are provided. Our main findings include the importance of establishing clear shared definitions while accepting plural understandings, the need to acknowledge resource as a critical factor in impact delivery and the headline need for far greater focus in this area from both funders and research groups
Original languageEnglish
Article number5387
Number of pages21
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


  • societal impact
  • socio-environmental impact
  • academic impact
  • urban living lab
  • co-production
  • impact planning
  • impact evaluation


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