It is accepted that the effective uptake of academic research into policy and practice requires the active involvement of stakeholders. However, understanding participation from the perspectives of stakeholders remains poorly understood. We show that non-academic participants bring multiple knowledges and expertises vital to research. We demonstrate that flexibility in terms of how research is framed, conducted and in the meaning of what constitutes “success” is crucial. We argue that research needs to move towards co-produced transdisciplinary research. In doing so, research can be more representative of stakeholder interests and knowledges, and also make important contributions to academic impact.