The Policy Engagement and Communications Programme (PEC) was launched in South Asia during an inception workshop in Bangkok at the end of September, 2013. At this event, programme staff, facilitators and participating think tanks came together to set out an ambitious programme for capacity building and support for think tanks.
The PEC programme in South Asia was developed by Practical Action Consulting (PAC) and IDS Knowledge Services (KS) responding to a request for proposals for a programme on Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) as part of IDRC’s Think Tank Initiative (TTI).
The programme in South Asia runs from September 2013 through to June 2014. The objectives of the programme are to strengthen the policy engagement and communications capacity of the TTI-funded institutions. More specifically this entails:
- understanding policy processes in specific contexts,
- engaging in knowledge brokering,
- contributing to the public debate and synthesizing and packaging knowledge and evidence.
The proposed outcomes of the programme are:
- Think tanks know their key audiences and are actively engaging with and informing them.
- Strengthened communications capacity: think tanks are effectively communicating evidence that meets the needs of their audience.
The programme’s aim is to work with think tanks to support them in effectively delivering their policy engagement and communication work. It will focus on the organisation’s priority capacity needs in these areas and develop a work plan to address these needs. Methods will include facilitation, coaching and technical inputs and working closely with relevant members of the think tank team through a named counterpart who can involve others as necessary from relevant teams within the think tank. This will seek to ensure capacity development needs are addressed in a sustainable manner
The technical showcase
The IDS KS team and the facilitators constitute a community of specialists who have considerable expertise in capacity development and knowledge mobilisation. Their skills will be leveraged across the programme depending on the needs of individual think tanks and the group as a whole.
Areas of expertise that are covered in the technical pool include:
- Network/Stakeholder mapping for policy influence.
- Research communications strategies, policy discourse and media engagement.
- Effective ICTs for policy engagement.
- Innovations systems – The IDS Knowledge Services Open API enables free access to tens of thousands of thematically organised research documents that can be utilised, repurposed and contextualised by others in the field.
- Open access and repository work.
- Knowledge mobilisation strategy development.
- Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Learning and Impact Assessment.
- Convening and facilitating expert discussions and communities of practice.
- Stimulating demand for research knowledge.
- Knowledge Brokering Theory & Practice.
Defining the PEC targets and priorities
The think tanks (along with the facilitators assigned to them) were asked about the initial analysis of their needs related to PEC during the workshop. The majority of responses focused on the importance communication in terms of policy influence. Other prominent areas included effective website management, including several pleas for guidelines on ‘staying relevant or visible’.
As expected, resources such as time, money and motivation dominated the list of challenges identified by workshop participants. In addition, there was also recognition that the much of the work related to policy engagement and communications was the work of a communications department with specialist staff and skills to communicate research.
In the area of capacity development, the emphasis seemed to be on communication tools and skills development. Once again, profiling through the website was also prominent – this time with more of an emphasis on social media. Building skills in order to make research more accessible and tracking the impact of research were also identified as areas were capacity needed to be developed.
This blog post has been produced as part of the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. However, these are the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of TTI. 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
Image courtesy of United Nations Cartographic Section