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22 September 2019
Leadership and Benchmarking: A process of learning from change Print
Tuesday, 18 February 2014 00:00
Nearly two years ago, the DRUSSA Programme was officially inaugurated with a Leadership and Benchmarking Event in Johannesburg. Neither a conference nor a workshop, this event was a critical opportunity to convene the Leaders and Champions from participating DRUSSA universities to fully establish what was then a new and fledgling community. Along with the DRUSSA partners, these Leaders and Champions successfully initiated what is now a long-running dialogue and community of practice that drives institutional change by establishing sustainable systems of Research Uptake at their universities.
At the heart of the 2012 event was the DRUSSA Benchmarking Survey. This survey was the first in-depth insight into the workings of the member DRUSSA universities as far as Research Uptake capacity went. Discussion of the survey results revealed the myriad ways in which this work is managed, and the types of resources and mechanisms that different universities use to get research into broader use. No one model was acclaimed as a template for others—each university operates in its own unique context, and each can develop and refine Research Uptake systems that are appropriate for and aligned to that context.
This is why the second DRUSSA Benchmarking Process is such an important part of the overall programme of learning. With the second survey launched in January 2014, the new benchmarking process reveals the the systems either planned for or already in place at DRUSSA universities, and also the degree of change over the past two years. Has responsibility for Research Uptake shifted within the institution? Which offices are now involved? Which weren’t involved previously? Has there been measurable attitudinal change towards this field of work, and to what degree has the DRUSSA project been seen to support that?
Measuring change and impact are, in many ways, intrinsic to Research Uptake itself. To assess whether we have been successful in planning to communicate research and getting it utilised by end users, universities need to be able to measure degrees of change and impact, externally. 
The benchmarking process serves this purpose internally. It provides an opportunity to see what initiatives have gained traction, which interventions have proven successful, and where the DRUSSA project can better serve the universities over the next phase of the programme.
At the second Leadership and Benchmarking Event, to be held in Cape Town from 12 to 14 March, the universities’ delegates will study the findings of this survey, and do much more,  moving from analysing and advocating for Research Uptake toward establishing plans of action to embed Research Uptake systems. What is learned from the survey results will shape institutional plans—working tools that Leaders and Champions have developed to weave uptake into the research cycle more fully. What is learned from discussions on themes such as Research Uptake strategy, process, communication and stakeholder engagement will also inform the rollout of new DRUSSA activities. How will future events be shaped around these themes, and if so, who should be involved? These decisions will be made collaboratively and with the senior leaders of the DRUSSA universities. In Cape Town, the learning process will draw on what has been learned through the project so far,  to build the capacity for learning for the future too.
Liam Roberts is a Programme Officer (Research) at the Association of Commonwealth Universities