Making your research accessible

Policy Engagement and Communications Programme (PEC) launched in Anglophone Africa

By 18 September 2013

Executive Directors and Communications Officers of thirteen prominent think tanks from Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria, gathered in Accra, Ghana for the kick-off of the TTI-funded Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) Programme in Anglophone Africa*.

Results for Development Institute (R4D) in partnership with CommsConsult is leading the implementation of the PEC Programme in Anglophone Africa to assist think tanks in strengthening their policy engagement and impact.

A major objective of the launch workshop was to help the think tanks develop high-impact communications and outreach strategies and create concrete roadmaps to achieve their goals. These objectives include evaluating their impact, gauging their progress, and assessing the challenges and gaps that they face.

Programme goals and peer learning

The workshop began by going back to the basics with the think tanks reflecting on their goals. After a lively and energetic start, the think tanks and PEC coordinators refined the goals of the programme to leverage synergies between the PEC programme and individual think tank goals for policy engagement and communications strategies. Think tank representatives were also eager to benchmark their results against other think tanks in Africa and to acquire cutting-edge knowledge in communications tools for policy.

In the second portion of the workshop, the think tanks shared their missions, approaches, team structures and initial ideas for their communications plans. Representatives from the think tanks also engaged in preliminary communications planning and brainstorming sessions where they answered thought-provoking questions that were posted on idea boards. These boards were displayed on the surrounding walls creating an informal type of window-shopping for ideas.

The think tanks also engaged in a mentor-mentee exercise, one of the capstones of the programme design. Mentors are assigned to each think tank to provide customized support and training. Each mentor presented and spoke about the areas that complement their level of experience and aptitude. Sessions included “Working with the Media”, “Using Social Media”, and “Effective Messaging”.

Finally, the think tanks shared some of the challenges they faced in conceiving their communications strategies and discussed the importance of policy engagement and communications. Many agreed that it is important to “simplify their research so that it can be easily understood by a wider audience”.  Others noted, “communications is everybody’s job and not just that of the communications staff”. Some also expressed that that their research often gets watered down in the communications process. In the end, all the think tanks shared a collective understanding that there are many roadblocks on both sides of the research-communications spectrum and those roadblocks need to be addressed head-on for them to make a meaningful impact.

Next steps

As a next step following the Accra launch of the PEC programme, R4D will be collaborating with its partners CommsConsult and Research to Action to record, analyze and share findings from the PEC Programme as peer learning, mentorship and capacity-training events continue in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria. It will be interesting to see what progress the think tanks make as part of this effort, and how they are able to strengthen their emerging footprints in Africa.

*PEC is a global programme with projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This article refers to the Anglophone Africa element of the programme.

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This post has been produced as part of the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. You can find all ongoing outputs related to this project via the PEC mini-site on Research to Action. To get updates from the PEC programme and be part of the discussion sign-up to our RSS or email updates. You can also follow our progress via Twitter using the following hashtag #ttipec.