Annex 4 Communication strategy
Communications in RIU is led by Keith Sones
. A new communication strategy was developed during the year which better supports and reflects the refocused RIU programme:
RIU Communication strategy
The RIU communication strategy is based on two distinct but overlapping and complementary aspects of communication:
Communication as a tool
Focus and branding
- communication as a tool to enable RIU to be effective in sharing lessons to enable innovation in agriculture
- communication as a key component of RIU's research design
Following the reorganization and refocusing of RIU during 2009, a new strap line has been created which is designed to capture and convey the essence of RIU in a few words: sharing lessons to enable innovation in agriculture. The RIU logo and the strap line are the key elements through which the RIU brand is portrayed.
The RIU communications team consists of a small group of specialists located mainly in Africa and the UK. The virtual team is flexible and dynamic and members are contracted as needed from a well developed and extensive network to provide expertise in web design, television and radio, event organization and delivery, and broader communications services. RIU has contacted Keith Sones
Associates to coordinate communications within RIU.
The RIU programme team, which includes management, permanent and part-time staff members, advisors, consultants and contractors, and programme and project partners, is dispersed throughout Africa, Asia and the UK. To ensure this virtual team functions effectively, a combination of internal communication tools are used including the RIU website, a regular e-newsletter
and six-monthly team meetings. Individuals and small groups also communicate with each other as needed, including via e-mail and Skype to minimize air travel for cost-efficacy and environmental considerations. The website is set up to facilitate collaborative group working at distance in password protected areas. The communications team is also available to all RIU team members to provide advice, support, mentoring and training as required.
RIU's main external audience is made up of DFID; other bilateral and multilateral donors, governments and private foundations that invest in agricultural research for development; agricultural research managers; and the broader agricultural research and development community, including researchers, NGOs, the media and the private sector.
The principal tool being used to communicate with these audiences is the RIU website www.researchintouse.com. In early 2010, a new website was built to support the refocused programme (to accommodate recommendations made during the mid-term review) and to enable effective two-way communication.
The website features blogs throughout its pages and the RIU team is encouraged and supported to share emerging ideas, plans, analyses and lessons simultaneously with both other team members and the wider website audience via this tool. Blogs will invite and encourage readers – both the RIU team and the wider web audience - to become engaged and involved by posting comments, suggestions, observations, criticisms, endorsements etc.
All finalized RIU outputs, such as published discussion papers and policy briefs, will have facilities for readers to post and share their comments on the website - in a similar manner to the major on-line book sellers. In these ways it is hoped that the distinction and boundaries between the RIU team and a broader, emerging community of practice will become increasingly blurred.
RIUtv and RIU radio
Within the website, extensive use is being made of video and audio material. RIU has created its own on-demand television and radio stations - RIUtv
. Bespoke software has been adapted for RIU which enables specially made short films to be embedded within its web pages to illustrate various points; these include short interviews, field reports, case studies and coverage of RIU events, such as Best Bets.
All audio and video files are made freely available to partners who are encouraged and facilitated to use these in a wide range of ways, such as incorporating short sequences into their presentations, featuring them on their own websites and ensuring that the people featured in any stories, such as farmers, who do not have internet access can view or listen to the material in their communities.
RIUtv and radio is overseen by Nik Wood
, RIU's own correspondent and an experienced international broadcast journalist. To enable emerging stories to be covered cost-effectively and flexibly a range of options are being used: the African Country Programme coordinators have been equipped with broadcast-quality camcorders and training to enable them to serve as 'citizen journalists'; local cameramen and radio journalists have been identified who can be contracted and deployed locally; and for high-priority stories, RIU's own correspondent is deployed.
Research into use success stories are being broadcast throughout the world through a network of contacts. In this way it is anticipated that interest in and awareness of the RIU programme, as well a research into use as a broader issue, will be increased, driving traffic to the website. More generally, good news stories that show the impact that can be achieved on the lives and livelihoods of the poor when agricultural research is successfully linked to innovation is also considered to be a high priority, helping to ensure continued political support for policy and institutional change and funding.
Suitable stories are placed with the BBC and other international broadcasters via their radio, television and web-based news services. A partnership with a Kenya-based pan-African television news service, A24 Media, enables video news and features packages to be distributed to African television stations for rebroadcast. A partnership with the UK-based WRENmedia enables RIU to take advantage of their DFID-supported Agfax service to produce radio features designed specifically for African audiences and to disseminate these to a network of local Africa radio stations, as well as having complementary research into use stories featured in the DFID-funded on-line journal New Agriculturist. Although it is often hard to track when and where news stories are broadcast, every effort will be made to document these. Early returns form A24 report that RIUtv films have been shown in 37 African countries, from Angola to Zimbabwe.
Beyond the RIU programme...
Plans are also being made to create high visibility, high impact, end-of-programme communication products to ensure that RIU's approaches, experiences and lessons remain accessible and influential beyond the lifetime of the programme. These are likely to include a book or books and live events captured as films, perhaps in the style of TED
(www.ted.com/talks), as well as peer-reviewed papers.
Blurring the boundaries
While carrying out effective communication in its routine work, RIU will also generate data and useful lessons. For example, the website will be monitored to see which pages are accessed most by users. Also, the effectiveness of blogs as ways of sharing emerging lessons and facilitating and encouraging interaction and feedback will be assessed. Setting up the African Country Programme coordinators as citizen journalists is also part of the RIU experiment. In this way, the boundary between communication as a tool and communication as a part of RIU's research design, detailed below, will be progressively blurred.
Communication as component of RIU's research design
RIU research design
In mid-2009, following the mid-term review, the RIU programme was unequivocally repositioned as a research programme and a research design was developed and retrofitted to the programme. The design is based on an overarching research question and six overlapping innovation narratives
, each of which has a hypothesis and a set of research questions. One of the innovation narratives addresses research communication-led innovation.
The central research question which RIU is seeking to answer is: what configurations of actors, policies and institutions, under what circumstances and at what point in the innovation trajectory, allow agricultural research to contribute to innovation and development?
Research communication narrative
The hypothesis for the innovation narrative focused on research communication is that research products need to be processed into forms suited to different audiences and made accessible through databases. This is thought to be particularly important for policy orientated research where concise timely information can play a critical role in decision making. Key research questions to be answered include: what are the circumstances under which information limits decision making and what are the most appreciate communication tools to fill this gap? What patterns of networking between researchers, decision makers and others complement communication?
Individual RIU programmes and projects include a wide range of research communication activities, including the use of print, community radio and drama groups. In one case an integrated approach is being pioneered which combines comics, radio broadcasts and phone-ins, animated cartoons on television, the web and text messaging targeted at young people.
In addition, communication in a much broader sense - that goes well beyond dissemination of research products - will be considered as a cross-cutting element across all the innovation narratives. This broader definition of communication to support innovation includes such aspects as building networks, supporting social learning, dealing with dynamics of power and conflict, and a wide range of innovation brokerage roles.