Over the course of 2013-2014, Results for Development Institute (R4D), together with partner organization CommsConsult and consultants Ray Struyk and David Olson, served as the Anglophone Africa Regional Lead for the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme.
The program aimed to provide capacity building support to 13 think tanks in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda to support them in strengthening their communication and policy engagement efforts and better translate research to action.
This capacity building support involved a variety of methods to work with communications officers, researchers, and executive directors at the think tanks. At the very start of the engagement, we conducted a diagnostic assessment to better understand think tanks needs and ongoing PEC efforts. Following that, mentors – senior communications experts, with local contextual knowledge – worked directly with think tank communications officers, researchers, or knowledge management officers to develop a targeted workplan and provide hands-on, practical support. In addition to mentorship, we also organized regional workshops and peer learning sessions. The latter included webinars, virtual writing sessions, and learning calls on specific topics, all hosted on Research to Action. We purposely used a mix of techniques to appeal to the range of think tanks and the technology infrastructure challenges that we faced.
A hallmark of our program was a focus on hands-on mentorship and peer learning, with think tanks encouraged to share their knowledge and provide feedback on each other’s work, whether it is a draft blog, press release, or newsletter. Mentors and program staff also shared numerous tips and tricks for success in PEC efforts via our closed list-serv and Research to Action. Such reflection and feedback did not always come naturally, and it is remarkable to see how comfort with honest dialogue and open conversation has grown over the months.
Now, at the program’s conclusion, we have consolidated all our knowledge products and learnings into a toolkit for researchers and communications officers. The toolkit contains resources and materials to help plan, package and disseminate research, and includes reflections from think tanks, mentors, and program staff. We are very proud to share these learnings, and hope that it not only inspires and supports our 13 think tanks, but many others that are on the PEC journey to translate research to action.
The toolkit is freely available as an online e-manual. For a hard copy, please contact Henna Mahmood at email@example.com. We welcome all feedback and suggestions, either on this site or via email to Henna Mahmood (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Shubha Jayaram (email@example.com).