Hope into Action: researchers, stakeholders and partners come together for inspiring Social Sciences Impact Conference 2023

Social sciences research is essential in helping us understand and positively influence the world around us. Delivering scalable, inclusive and responsible impact – turning ‘Hope into Action’ – was the theme of this year’s Social Sciences Impact Conference, which took place in Oxford 20-21 March. 

More than 200 social scientists, policy makers, public and third sector stakeholders, research funders and research impact professionals convened at St Anne’s College, Oxford to explore questions surrounding impact delivery and measurement and to hear success stories and experiences from a diverse range of voices. More than 140 speakers from 64 organisations shared their insights across 37 sessions, including 10 livestreamed for online audiences. 

The conference featured keynote speeches by: 

The welcome desk at Hope into Action conference
  • Julia Black (President of the British Academy), who reflected on how social sciences can mobilise research for social good. Introducing the work of Aspect (A SHAPE Platform for Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Transformation), Julia encouraged researchers to think about scaling and sustaining their impacts.  
  • Ricardo Fuentes Nieva (Director, Equity and Social Protection, ODI and Chief Economist, Data-Pop Alliance) and Diego Sànchez-Ancochea (Head of the Department of International Development at Oxford), who discussed the role of research in tackling inequality, how advances in data evidence have already shifted the narrative and how we can progress further in the future. 

Panel discussions, case study and workshop sessions covered a multitude of topics, showcasing projects from across the UK and beyond. These ranged from public engagement and grassroots participatory research approaches, through to  community, third sector and policy engagement projects, plus business engagement and commercialisation. Highlights included: 

  • First-hand experiences from members of the Bangladeshi community in London, young people who survived the Manchester Arena attack, advocates for the Roma and Showmen communities, third sector organisations and businesses about their experiences.
  • Impact across the life course and in times of crisis, with projects focusing on engaging and supporting children and their families through to projects supporting elderly people and end of life care.
  • Supporting impact in different places and contexts including the Global South and LMICs, in cities and for travelling communities.
  • Practical support on developing impact strategies, measuring and evidencing impact, and delivering impact responsibly, inclusively, and ethically.  

Along with contributions from 30 universities, key Oxford impact-focused projects were showcased including: 

We heard in panel sessions from senior representatives of our partners Oxford Brookes and Reading Universities, our funder ESRC, and also NCCPE, BEIS, GO Science and the Innovation Caucus.  

The conference also featured a lively exhibition and range of social activities, enabled in part by our sponsors Aspect, OxCo, Oxentia and Scriberia.   

Aileen Marshall-Brown, Head of Engagement, Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford and Event Lead, said:

“The unprecedented challenges of the past few years have highlighted how social sciences researchers and their partners in policy, practise and business are crucial in addressing the most significant issues that affect all our lives. The conference was a powerful way of highlighting the value of engagement, collaboration and hopeful action. It was our pleasure to welcome to Oxford so many delegates from a diversity of professional backgrounds and lived experiences and hope they left feeling as energised and inspired as we did by the amazing projects and partnerships on display. We received extremely positive feedback from our visitors and look forward to hosting the event again in two years’ time.”

The programme also celebrated the O2RB partnership between the University of Oxford, The Open University, the University of Reading and Oxford Brookes University and the more than 550 social sciences impact partnership that have resulted from 10 years of Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, which has generously funded the conference (grant reference: ES/T502005/1). We are grateful to the ESRC for their ongoing support.  

We will be sharing the recordings of a selection of sessions, as well as special interviews and insights from the conference in the coming weeks, so please do keep checking our website