21 October 2008

Communication the key to agricultural research with impact

Addis Ababa, 21 October: This morning some 50 people from Africa and beyond gathered in the UN congress centre in a workshop to discuss how improved communication can help maximize the impact of agricultural research in Africa.

GDNet’s Sherine Ghonheim set the scene arguing that “traditional approaches to research communications are becoming inadequate and weak” especially in view of the growing complexity of communicating research to policymakers and “increasing pressure to show the impact of research.”

In his opening remarks, Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Division Director at IFPRI suggested that “communication is the key” to doing research well. Reflecting on current and past efforts of researchers in Africa, he concluded: “Sometimes their results do not get to where we want them to get to”. Without communication, research, no matter how good, is wasted.

Klaus Von Grebmer, Head of Communications at IFPRI introduced some key research communication notions, using IFPRI examples. Arguing that communications is about impact, he made the case that high quality research needs high quality communication. Research need to support both, recognizing that communication is a fundamental part of a research activity, not an added cost.

At IFPRI, Von Grebmer uses an ‘AIDA’ approach – attention, interest, desire, action – where different communication approaches and channels are used to move audiences from attention to a product or message to some desired action.

IFPRI has also segmented its audiences, into ‘expert’, ‘insider’, ‘interested’, and layperson (general public). He gave an example of what a research project might produce: For expert audiences, a comprehensive research report; for an ‘insider’, an easier to read food policy report; for broader ‘interested’ audiences, a 4-page issue brief; and for the general public, press releases comprising ‘sound bites’, bullet points, etc. He emphasized that translation is more important as the audience becomes more general.

The approach seems to be working. In October 2008, IFPRI was awarded the COM+ Communication Award “in recognition of its response to the food crisis.”

The Addis Ababa workshop is organized by the Global Development Network (GDN) in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the World Bank Institute (WBI), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with support from the Information and Communications Technology – Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Photos from the workshop
Video interviews at the workshop
more stories on this blog / on euforic blog / on ICT-KM blog
Euforic news on communication and knowledge-sharing
R4D news on research communication

by Peter Ballantyne

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