Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DDRN workshop on communication in North/South research partnerships

Increasingly donors who fund development research programs stress the need to communicate about research priorities, programs and outcomes. Researchers themselves as well as intermediaries have an important role to play in this. Examples of donors with a strong interest in research communication are DFID, DGIS/WOTRO and Danida.

On 12 - 14 August 2009 DDRN, the Danish Development Research Network, convened a workshop in Tanzania to promote effective communication during and after the implementation of three new research projects in Tanzania for which Danida granted funding in 2008. The projects look at livestock, dried fruits and climate change and will be carried out in partnership with Danish universities.

The workshop addressed a variety of issues regarding research communication. Euforic and CABI, another Euforic member, developed and co-facilitated the workshop with assistance from staff of DDRN and the Danish Water Forum (DWF). Over 30 researchers and external stakeholders attended the workshop that was held at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania.

Drawing on the experience of the Euforic network and aiming to respond to the needs expressed by the participants, the event was designed tailor-made to cover the formulation of a framework communications strategy for each project and to elaborate some example communications products. Also included was a session on how to use the internet to disseminate and access research results.

The workshop began with an analysis of the various stakeholders of research projects and the aims of communicating with them. The goal of communication can be to change the behaviour of stakeholders, to raise awareness about specific issues, to encourage dialogue, or to collect needs. To reach such goals you need to be clear: What is it you want to achieve with your research communication? Who do you want to address? What is your message for them?

This first module of the workshop was followed by presentation sessions that drew on case studies of messages and channels for different communities and actors. In a variety of hands-on exercises participants worked on different products and media. A specific session on writing press releases was supported by a meeting with local journalists from the Tanzanian newspapers “Business Week” and “The Citizen”.

The workshop culminated in a presentation session entitled “The SuperProjects” in which the participating research projects made presentations based on their press releases and communications plans, illustrating the different impact of various styles of presentation. The peri-ubran livestock project illustrated a selection of target audiences and the messages and channels they would use to reach these audiences. The Dried Fruits project proved to be popular with samples of the product available for the audience to taste. The Climate Change study on Kilimanjaro was enhanced by spectacular images.

The workshop provided key documents, many produced by other Euforic members, and illustrated issues with videos from the and channels.

Earlier, Euforic was involved in launching the DFID Research Strategy works with CABI on R4D, a DFID funded project on research communication. Research communication was also a central theme at the June 2009 EADI IMWG-meeting supported by Euforic.

See also Euforic newsfeeds on information, knowledge, communication, and from the IMWG 2009 workshop