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Regionally contextualized and integrated engagement, dialoguing, knowledge sharing and communication

Annex 1

The key message that comes through in the five cases below is that personality and institutional set up matter and influence impact pathways, strength of partnerships, and the level of engagement with the global program.

CPWF Global Program Coordinating Perspective

The CPWF communication and knowledge management learning group held a workshop in December 2013 to compile the program’s knowledge management and communications lessons learned. The experiences provided CGIAR Research Programs (including Aquatic Agricultural Systems, CCAFS, Humid Tropics, Livestock and Fish, and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry) and R4D programs in general with tools and lessons for how communication and knowledge management can support research to move from outputs to outcomes. 

Resources

Basin/Regional Perspectives

Limpopo

Synopsis: In the Limpopo Basin, communications was approached as something integral to the research for development process.  Researchers and partners understood from the beginning (and encouraged from the beginning) that in order to achieve a common set of goals, impacts and change that they would need to engage with each others and stakeholders to whom their projects were directed.  This was facilitated through proposal development and constant discussions and engagement about how to achieve the basin’s targets.

Engagement was seen as a key principle in attaining the goals set in the Limpopo basin.  L5 (WaterNet, GWP, FANRPAN) hosted a forum for researchers to learn how to communicate with policy makers.  Throughout the program, key partners hosted annual meetings, which brought together stakeholders, from researchers to program actors, fostering an environment for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and mutual learning.  The biggest breakthroughs for the program were at these types of events and meetings, said Amy Sullivan, Limpopo Basin Leader.  By the end of the program, during the large science roll out, previously skeptical researchers sold their research and the research for development approach to next users, end users, strategic partners and policy makers.

Key factors

  • Three regional networks, working together with convening power, legitimacy, relevant mandates, established communication channels: WaterNet, FANRPAN, GWP
  • Minimal staff turnover
  • L5 and other key partners had good government contacts and regionally legitimacy
  • Annual policy dialogues through FANRPAN
  • Communications responsibilities vested in partners/networks
  • Only one of the five projects in the Limpopo basin was led by a CGIAR center, so built in broad based support well beyond CGIAR
  • Only one ‘out of basin’ lead partner: Stockholm Environment Institute

Things to keep in mind

  • Must know goal and what you are aiming at (decided and understood collectively)
  • Be familiar with your audience – prepare receptors as well as the people delivering messages
  • Integrate communications in work plans: create a budget line for researchers to spend a specific amount of time on communications; and make it part of IOPs
  • Identify clear targets, develop a relationship
  • Work within state mandates

Andes

Synopsis: In the Andes Basin, CONDESAN was largely responsible for communications efforts, partly because of their existing work in communications on platforms like InfoAndina.  However there were no staff dedicated full time to the program’s communications and towards the end of the program, staff turnover rates were high.  They faced challenges communicating projects that were not CONDESAN’s as some projects questioned why someone else should communicate their work.  One of the major successes in communications in the basin surrounded the broad consensus among project partners on the evolution of the benefit sharing mechanisms (BSM) terminology, which has been adopted by stakeholders and policy makers who were involved in the project from the beginning. 

Things to keep in mind

  • Need clear research plan and goals
  • Create relationships with policy makers
  • Communications person must be embedded in the project and must serve dual role as link to policy environment

Ganges

Synopsis: In the Ganges Basin, there was a high turnover rate of communications staff for the last 4 years of the program.  Leadership within the basin did not emphasize communications functions to researchers and stakeholders, thus taking a different approach to research for development.  The basin had a good set of partners but engagement was lacking.

Things to keep in mind

  • Create clear understanding of how research is linked together
  • Emphasize engagement and project coordination

Mekong

Synopsis:  In the Mekong basin, all project leaders were seen as agents of communication with a clear research for development goal.  Researchers were mandated to set aside budget and time to communicate and were evaluated against their communications efforts.  An assimilation approach was used where an idea or “seed” was planted in a target person’s mind with an objective of having that person come back for more information.  Focus was given on presenting messages in ways that stakeholders would absorb them.  Basin leaders determined that policy makers learn through conversations and geared their communications strategy to foster discussion and conversation spaces, organizing workshops and conferences centered on dialogue.  Monitoring progress and success of these efforts is a challenge and an area that needs to be better developed.

Things to keep in mind

  • Comms should be flexible and respond to opportunity
  • Define clear targets and make sure to speak their language
  • Include communications (with budget) in projects
  • Evaluate researchers based on engagement with partners – this makes partners feel empowered
  • Create trust

 Read the full document [PDF].

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