At Impact360, we talk a lot about integrating research and practice, integrative approaches, or even making the boundaries between research and practice more permeable. We also talk about how we want to connect researchers and practitioners, help them work better together, and even do inclusive problem-solving.

A good question then is, how do we make meaning of all these ideas? How do we put them together in a way that makes sense to us as we support researchers and practitioners, and how do we work to reduce disaster risk? Also, how can we operationalize this to measure the effectiveness of our workshops, the success of a project, or the longer-term impact of our organization itself? 

We have a framework that so far we’ve found to be handy as we’ve developed our strategies and tactics. It has also gotten quite a few comments during a few talks we’ve presented it at, as well as likes on social media.

We call it the Convergence Pyramid.

7–The Convergence Pyramid is like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, building the capacity for researchers and practitioners in the natural hazards and disaster fields to integrate—converge—their work.

We didn’t come up with the concept of convergence—obviously. We’ve adapted the idea from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) concept of convergence research, as well as the National Research Council book on convergence.

What does the NSF mean by convergence? For NSF, convergence is when a research project is proposed and conducted based explicitly on an identified societal problem. Importantly, the project plans for the implementation and application of the research before the research starts. That way, the process of integrating into practice can occur throughout the study. 

Convergence differs from typical research because it is rooted in problem-solving and acknowledges the societal importance of translating knowledge to action in the most timely fashion possible. Implementation and application require that the researchers identify, reach out to, and work with practitioners in their field.

The National Research Council provides a more general definition of convergence.

Convergence is an approach to problem solving that cuts across disciplinary boundaries. It integrates knowledge, tools, and ways of thinking from life and health sciences, physical, mathematical, and computational sciences, engineering disciplines, and beyond to form a comprehensive synthetic framework for tackling scientific and societal challenges that exist at the interfaces of multiple fields.

Impact360’s Convergence Pyramid sets out the capacity building needs for researchers and practitioners to support research-practice convergence.

Starting from the top of the pyramid, as I’ve already hinted at, convergence requires the real-time inclusive problem solving of co-creation. Co-creation is not possible if researchers and practitioners haven’t established the shared resources and power to collaborate. Collaboration won’t work if researchers and practitioners don’t have the trust and information sharing to coordinate. Coordination is built on the willingness and commitment of cooperation. Not surprisingly, essential to holding up the weight of cooperation, coordination, collaboration, and co-creation is communication. Without adequate, empathetic communication, the convergence pyramid will collapse. But ultimately, communication and so convergence simply can’t happen unless more natural hazards and disaster researchers and practitioners connect.

You might be able to guess why we also refer to the Convergence Pyramid as the 7Cs. As far as we know, Impact360 is the first to explore, refine, and promote the relationships between the 7Cs—certainly for helping researchers and practitioners to reduce the impacts of natural hazards and disasters. We’re excited by the utility that this framework has provided us so far. We know it will continue to be useful for us and hope it might be useful for you, as well.