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Developing a communication strategy

A communication strategy needs to be in place from the very beginning of the governance assessment exercise. It is often too late to think about communication once the results are ready. Communication does not just happen: It must be planned, organized and implemented. In addition, a communication strategy needs to be continuously updated to respond to changing local needs.
A communication strategy should, at the minimum, identify:
  • Clear goals
  • Target audiences
  • Messages adapted to various target audiences
  • Identification of transmission channels
  • Understanding of the receiver of the information
A mapping of producers and users of governance indicators may inform the communication strategy as well as provide a baseline for communication efforts. The mapping may include an overview of who uses and does not use governance data, as well as for what purposes such data are used and reasons why they are not used. Reasons for low use of governance data could arise from low awareness or a poor fit between existing governance data and policy needs. Communication may raise awareness and better align research with needs.
A communication strategy can be developed in several stages:
  1. A preliminary outline is prepared by the governance assessment secretariat and its nearest partners.
  1. The outline is submitted to various stakeholders and partners for comments. Partners can be consulted individu­ally, in a technical meeting, or in a stakeholder meeting to build consensus and seek buy-in.
  1. At some point, the communication strategy should be reviewed by communication experts.
  1. Once the strategy is ready, it will be important to share wth partners and groups that you aim to reach. This will facilitate developing the various tools intended to reach different target audiences.
A minimum set of questions that should be asked includes:
  1. What assessments results need to be made known?
  1. What social groups and actors will be interested in this knowledge?
  1. What are the needs of these varied groups and actors? What components of the governance assessment are most interesting to them?
  1. What communication tools would be most appropriate to use for these target groups?
  1. What is the timeframe?
  1. What financial and human resources are available?
  1. Who will be in charge of implementating the communication strategy?

Maximizing communication opportunities

Communicating to influence policy requires timely inputs into policy processes and maximization of communication opportunities that arise from events in politics and the media:
  1. Are there particular stages in the policymaking process to target, such as evaluation schedules, monitoring plans, development of new national development plans or sector plans?
  1. Are there other events to target, such as international conferences, national policy forums, or national or local elections?
  1. Are you ready to communicate messages from the assessment in case unforeseen media attention is given to areas that the assessments examine, for example, if there is suddenly a media focus on poor women and poor service delivery?
  1. Are there communication opportunities that arise as part of conducting the assessment exercise? How can communication opportunities that arise from workshops and stakeholder consultations for selecting indicators and validating results be maximized? Can materials or messages be distributed as part of conducting a household survey? 

Identifying target groups and audiences

The target audiences are the groups or individuals at the local, national, or international level who will strategically benefit from the information and whose involvement will secure a more inclusive participation in decision making. They can be local communities, civil society, political parties, government units, donors, academia, women, poor people and other marginalized groups. Because each target group has specific characteristics and is faced with different challenges, a specific communication strategy is needed for each. For example:
  1. For poor and marginalized groups, messages must take into account their point of interest and language barriers; make use of available and innovative transmission channels such as community radio, plain-language guides or dialogue mechanisms; and secure genuine channels for feedback.
  1. For the direct beneficiaries and partners in the research, a strategy is needed to ensure that research results are repeated, that they serve as a model and that their impact in the field is extended.
  1. For political decision makers, a strategy is needed to en­sure that participatory governance assessments is better understood and adapted to their needs.
  1. For the development community, researchers, stakeholders and funding agencies, a strategy must be aimed at gaining visibility in the field, sharing the governance assessment results and developing exchanges on other democratic governance initiatives.
The importance of defining your target groups cannot be overstated. Knowledge, beliefs, and customs often vary widely from one group to another and the ways in which knowledge is acquired are not the same in each commu­nity. Even within a given target group, it’s important to learn how to segment. For example, within a group of vil­lagers, you may want to reach the leaders and the women in particular, because you believe this is the best way to engage in dialogue.

Communicating to improve evidence-based policymaking in Madagascar 

The MADIO project (Madagascar-DIAL-Instat-Orstrom) was created to support macroeconomic policy and the building of a statistical system in Madagascar in (1994-1999). The project included 21 surveys and 300 publications, as well as studies and publications using governance indicators. Adopting an aggressive policy to communicate and disseminate results was a deliberate decision of the project. It was argued that the ineffectiveness of some African national statistical offices was partly due to statisticians' inability to respond in a timely fashion to society's demands. The communication strategy was successful and included:
  • Regularly conducting "on-the-spot information" sessions where statisticians present the public with their most recent and important results. These intermediate results were released before the full report with the final results, which often takes a long time to publish.
  • Publishing "preliminary results" in an attractive brochure format of about 50 pages, regularly and systematically. These brochures offer analysis of the main results of each survey and were written in a plain language accessible to non-professionals.
  • Communicating results to specific target audiences such as strategic partners, decision makers, authorities and donors, as well as producing press releases to the media in relation to the launch of publications.
  • Publishing an annual review for statisticians and academics, to foster academic debate, a community of nationally based practice, more analysis and more research.
Razafindrakato, Mireille and Francoi Roubaud, "Economists fuel public debate in Madagascar: the MADIO experience," in ed., Ayuk, Elias T. and Marouani, Mohammed A., The Policy Paradox in Africa: Strengthening Links Between Economic Research and Policymaking, IDRC: Ottawa, (2007). (hyperlink)