To communicate, or not to communicate? At the Bangalore-based Public Affairs Centre (PAC), my challenge was to impress upon a dedicated group of researchers that they should give adequate and quality time to communicating their research to opinion-makers and users. My task was made simpler by the complete dedication of the PAC Director to the process, but I could see he was anxious and unsure. He was probably asking himself if he had done right by asking all his research staff to spend three full days on this ‘behavioural change’ workshop. Behaviours of adults don’t change overnight. Not even in three days, unless something really clicks in their minds. Will that happen? An unsaid question but I could hear it loud and clear!
So I decided that I would not rock the boat too much. That I would stay in their ‘comfort zone’ as much as possible but just give the right twist at the right time. After all, here was a group of researchers who excelled in their area of work and they needed to stay true to their core principles. Plus, they were a busy lot. So even if they agreed with the need to put in more time and energies into communication, when push came to shove, they would not have a lot of time to do that. So the ‘twist’ had to be something that contributed to the outcome of their research and was an integral part of the research ‘package.’ For all these reasons, I titled the workshop: ‘Is Policy Engagement and Communication (PEC) as critical to change as research?’ A query that I hoped would set the researchers thinking….
The attached document captures the essence and process of the 3-day workshop. I hope you will notice how I tried to adhere to the ‘comfort zone’ by:
(a) Having researchers as co-facilitators. This was key because it helped break-down barriers with researchers.
(b) Getting researchers to do an internal evaluation of PAC’s PEC impacts. This helped to situate the importance of the workshop and clarified basic concepts.
(c) Embedding PEC into the research design or ‘log frame’ itself.
The twist? It was simple. Get researchers to assess their own research findings from a PEC perspective. First to see what impacts the findings had. Then to explore what impacts the findings could have had if PEC had been factored in.
The exercise was creative and useful because it unlocked new ways of thinking about research products. Participants scored the workshop 8+ in the final evaluation. There was consensus that PEC should be integrated in the research design from the very start so that appropriate activities and resources required are linked to research outputs and outcomes. Finally, the performance appraisal system for researchers was amended to incorporate PEC objectives. In other words, PEC has arrived at PAC.