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Communication activities do not always form a coherent whole for the Volta Basin Development Challenge (VBDC). Integration, guidance and ongoing collective documentation and reflection can significantly enhance the good efforts undertaken by all in the Volta so far.

In a two-day workshop (27-28 March), representatives from all individual Volta projects came together to brainstorm about the challenges and opportunities of the VBDC and to refine an operational communication action plan to guide information and communication activities in the region.

Early on in the workshop, when finding out about the functions of communication (see image), the participants realized that when they are working on their multi-stakeholder engagement process, when they are attending events and organizing meetings, when they are sending reports from their research, they are effectively communicating.The Communication functions presented at the VBDC communication workshop March 2012

So far, despite efforts to realize common activities across VBDC, each Volta project has been largely conducting activities focusing on its own dynamics. This can be expected and it is indeed very important to ‘gel’ the team, align agendas and understanding of the approaches that will be followed, develop a sense of trust and strengthen the scientific research process and produce outputs.

Despite these efforts, there is still much to do in each Volta project to bridge the work of research teams across the two Volta Challenge countries – Burkina Faso and Ghana. Indeed there are major differences of language, of culture, of institutional and legislative realities, and of perspectives on scientific approaches, which add on to the difficulty of carrying out ‘joined-up research’.

This also explains the reason why there has been so far little exchange between the different Volta projects in both countries. The management and donors of the wider Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) of which the VBDC is one of the six arms, are emphasizing the need to integrate research within and across basins. The challenge is ahead. So are opportunities, fortunately.

Ways forward

Throughout the workshop, participants highlighted some ideas and initiatives to develop a better integrated communication approach that helps the VBDC act as a larger whole and leads to more effective science:

  • Mahamoudou Sawadogo in the discussion about 'integrating communication in VBDC' To make use of existing conversation spaces (project leader meetings, scientific meetings, regular field visits and visits of VBDC staff members) to flag stories, interesting outputs and occasions to document and share the ongoing communication activities in each project;
  • To review the set of communication platforms and channels in use in VBDC and to clarify what are the key platforms that all VBDC staff should use or at least know about;
  • To connect the different collaborative spaces (wikis) that various Volta projects are using and to map all Volta events on one single calendar;
  • To further work on convincing everyone about the value of communication by quickly documenting and sharing activities undertaken by individual Volta project teams (through attendance and participation of the coordinating project [V5] staff members);
  • To finalize operational communication plans, which highlight future communication activities in each project and together with other Volta projects.

The onus is on V5 to act as a maestro for the VBDC, to amplify what every other Volta project is developing and to guide them on their path towards more effective communication for research. Although, this will only be possible if other Volta projects recognize that they are already carrying out communication, that they need to keep doing it and only if they open up to other projects by sharing their work, stories, outputs and ideas to enrich each other’s approach.

This workshop was but one other brick in the wall to lead to a collective path for impact on water management in the Volta. Where will the other bricks come from?

View the slideshow presentation from the meeting:

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