Optentia: impact-focused research
The Optentia Research Focus Area on North-West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus is focused on developing and organising knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential, with specific interest in the African context.
Optentia uses inputs from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences, including psychology, industrial/organisational psychology, educational psychology, sociology, educational sciences, employment relations, and social work.
An important part of Optentia’s strategy is to conduct research with the practical impact in mind. For this reason they conduct studies with clear implications for practice. Which steps can be taken to increase the probability that a study has clear implications for practice?
First, a design-science approach can be implemented. This means that a researcher is concerned not only about “what is”, but also about “what can be”. In Industrial/Organisational Psychology this may involve creating training and development systems that result in skill building and flourishing of unemployed people and organisations.
As a second step, future generations of researchers in the social sciences could be trained to undertake a design-science approach because they want to contribute to human flourishing.
Social sciences researchers could use their knowledge and skills to pursue goals greater than themselves. They should focus on dependent variables that are of interest to decision makers. Also, they should spend time in the field to interpret research for decision makers and users of research results. Furthermore, they should become involved in decision making by participating in Boards. Practical implications of research findings should also be disseminated to practitioners through professional bodies.
Optentia has had a clear goal of developing and supporting the kind of research and researchers they wish to see make a difference in both South African society and the world at large. Looking at what this relatively young research entity has accomplished to date, no one can doubt they are living their mission: