Strategic communication

Lessons Learned: A year in the life of a research uptake professional

By 22/06/2017

I lead the Research Uptake and Communications Unit in my organisation, the Health Research and Social Development Forum (HERD). I always find it useful and interesting to hear about what my fellow research uptake professionals are doing, so I thought I would share my own professional achievements from the last year (to April 2017).

Based on my roles and responsibilities, I categorised my activities into three components: Research Uptake, Knowledge Management, and Communications.

Research Uptake activities include developing project briefs, blogs, summaries, policy briefs, concept papers, grant proposals, project-related presentations in external events (seminars and conferences), and other similar activities. Knowledge Management involves synthesising evidence and collecting reports and relevant documents on areas related to and of interest to our organisation’s work, such as media monitoring reports, and summaries and syntheses of global reports. Communications activities include the day-to-day management of websites, social media, and other routine administrative reporting and communications.

I document my daily work activities using daily time sheets, and a summary of the year to April 2017 looks like this:

Total number of activities: 789
Components No of activities %
Research Uptake 391 50
Knowledge Management 106 14
Communications 292 36



What does this suggest?

Most focus is on research uptake. As demonstrated in the figures above, 391 out of 789 of my activities (50 percent) in the last year concentrated on Research Uptake activities. My primary role is to enhance the visibility of the organisation and its projects, so it makes sense that most of my activities have been related to communicating to various stakeholders about this using blogs, project briefs, policy briefs, case studies, and success stories, among others.

Promoting knowledge translation happens through knowledge management. As a development communications professional, it is also my responsibility to undertake Knowledge Management activities in sectors that my organisation is involved in to promote the wider agenda of knowledge translation. This component is gradually being institutionalised in the organisation by collecting and summarising evidence from various global reports on our focus areas such as health, education, nutrition, gender, and women’s empowerment, among others. I have also been leading media-monitoring studies to synthesise media reports on various thematic issues.

Traditional communications activities are still important. Communications activities conducted during this period primarily involved routine management of websites, official emails, and social media accounts. It also involved development of strategic documents such as organisational and project-specific communications policies and guidelines.

What did I learn?

While reflecting my involvement in research uptake and communications in the last year, I’ve learned a great deal.

Without research, there is no research uptake: The richness of the research leads to greater potential for research uptake. High-quality research has greater promise for effective research uptake, if planned and executed well. Planning communications as part of the research cycle is a key part of ensuring high-quality research.

Institutionalisation of knowledge management enhances ‘peer–organisational’ reputation: Regular development of knowledge management outputs, such as summaries of global reports and media monitoring on key development issues, helps the organisation to gain recognition and a wider reputation among its peers and organisations working in a similar sector. It also helps encourage cross-learning within the organisation, thereby promoting debates and discussions among the researchers on various development agendas.

Better internal communications practice leads to better external communications: Generally, there is a tendency to overlook the internal communications aspects, such as development and execution of communications policies, and guidelines. However, doing these activities well plays an important role. By enhancing good communications practices such as regular website updates, timely and appropriate responses to organisational emails, and greater engagement with interested audiences in social media, among others, skills and experience are built across the organisation. All these good practices – done well – lead to better external communications, as professional communications approaches are learned and applied by staff throughout the organisation.




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