Cross-cultural learning in communication
For researchers to shape effective policy and practice for sustainable development we must communicate with decision makers on their terms. They need robust evidence that gives them confidence, context-relevant information that supports their own situation, and an understanding of the practical realities facing their constituents and other people they are trying to support.
Communicating research in a way that delivers on all these counts is difficult and varies across contexts and cultures. One way to rise to the challenge is to share lessons from what works across different countries and sectors. In February 2011, IIED’s communications team brought together nine researchers, communicators, advocates and project managers from partner organisations for a week-long opportunity to do just this.
IIED’s Communication Learning Week covered a broad range of skills and tools, including crafting a communication strategy, writing for policymakers, working with the media, exploiting new technologies such as social media and participatory video, marketing publications and monitoring results.
I came into the week with relatively high expectations...but the week certainly lived up to them. It was personally a great learning experience for me and for TNRF too — I will be able to go back and bring a lot to the organisation...
It was great to have just nine participants. I was really able to troubleshoot and workshop my own issues, and make a lot of progress — not just talk in theory about things. And it was wonderful to hear from people with similar struggles and challenges to those we face in Tanzania — bureaucracy and politics but also simple things like trouble with internet connections. It was even more positive to hear how people overcome these challenges and I feel like I learnt a lot from my peers.
In short, I’ve gained a lot of wonderful tools, made great contacts and I now feel I have some real concrete ideas to bring back to my organisation.
Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF), Tanzania
What I liked most about the learning week was that the sessions were very interactive and participatory — even when I didn’t expect them to be — and that got everybody moving and made the whole programme quite exciting. The sessions on policy briefs and working with the media were particularly powerful and I drew a lot of energy from that. It’s an important area for us in Uganda to work on and see how we can improve.
I strongly feel that you could take this work forward with a mentorship programme, especially in the area of working with media and policymakers — because of our need to grow the language appropriate for engaging in and communicating about the different issues we deal with.
Kabarole Research and Resource Centre, Uganda
The Communication Learning Week was a great opportunity for me to improve my communication skills and put in place a communication strategy for my organisation. I’ve been doing lots of good work at home but how to communicate what I do to the public and local community has been a constraint. This week has helped me learn how to market my organisation and communicate well with donors and with local community people themselves.
The facilitators were friendly, especially to those of us coming from different social backgrounds — they created a friendly environment where we freely interacted with one another with no fear. The week provided a lot of opportunities to make new connections, including with journalists and others that we have had little opportunity to meet before.
My one recommendation would be to extend the time for practically doing some of this work with facilitators on hand to help. Writing a policy brief is not something you can do in one day.
Salome Gongloe Gofan
Rural Integrated Centre for Community Empowerment, Liberia
Learning week feedback
Participants in the IIED Communications Learning Week reflect on their experience.
Photostory: Communications Learning Week in action