An insight into the Webinar “Nevermind the research piece! Communicating in policy environments”

[Editor’s Note: This post was written by Leandro Echt, Coordinator of the Influence, Monitoring and Evaluation Program at CIPPEC. This article is also available in Spanish at VIPPAL.]

The webinar “Nevermind the research piece! Communicating in policy environments” took place on March 18th, with the support of GDNet. It was CIPPEC and Politics & Ideas’ first experience organizing a Webinar. I was in charge of facilitation, so I would like to share some features of the experience.

The webinar intended to make participants re-think their current focus in research communications:  de-centre it from the research work and instead focus on the context of policy and politics. The objective was to encourage our colleagues to think about how to strategize communications in order to enhance the way it helps research contribute to policy.

More than 30 participants from around the globe joined the event: communicators at think tanks and CSOs, researchers, members of universities, donors and policy makers from South Africa, UK, Palestine, Bolivia, Argentina, Lao PDR, USA, Guatemala, Canada, Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Kosovo, Serbia, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Egypt and El Salvador.

The first presentation was delivered by Vanesa Weyrauch, Co-founder at Politics & Ideas and Associate Researcher at CIPPEC. She invited us to reflect on a new paradigm for research communications, taking into account its multilayered and multi-actoral nature. A paradigm centered in the context, not in the research piece. This approach entails understanding the guiding principles of policymaking, developing working relationships and engagement strategies, recognising that we are one of many actors involved in the process, understanding what influencing could really look like, identifying the right circumstances for change to happen, and being aware of prevailing discourses and how policy problems and solutions are currently framed.

Then, Rebecca Pointer, Information and Communications Officer at Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies-PLAAS in South Africa, shared lessons on communications when trying to influence South Africa’s land reform. She invited us to pay attention to politics and ideology as determinants of public policies. For instance, the fact that land reform is a key issue on the election agenda (next May) and that citizens’ insistence for pro-poor and widespread land reform continues to grow and strengthen are two major issues to consider when designing PLAAS’ communications strategy on land reform policies.

Last, René Hernández, Director of Communications at Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarrollo Económico y Social-FUSADES in El Salvador, focused on some basics to consider when communicating research: the source, the message, the relationship with media and the audience. FUSADES’s Communications Committee stands out as a good practice when designing and adapting a communications strategy.

After presentations, participants exchanged ideas with presenters on different issues related to communications, research and policy: the potential role of grassroots communities and general public in the research and policy process, how to encourage researchers’ strategic thinking about communications, how to achieve successful advocacy outside pre-election periods, and how to consider policy makers’ ideology when designing a communications strategy, among other topics.

The Webinar was recorded; you can relive it here.

Both CIPPEC and P&I thank all the participants of our first webinar experience. We hope this webinar becomes the first stage of a long journey to build, as Vanesa Weyrauch suggested, a “networked communications” culture.