for face-to-face engagement between INASP and the grantees but also ensured that thelatter were focused on the objectives of the project and not distracted by their day to dayresponsibilities; which, in the case of ODI, contributed to not meeting the full potential of the webinars offered.
If it is not done at the beginning, then it is probably too late:
In all cases theresearchers were either done or about to finish with the research. The project came aboutas a final activity for the grantees, added to the project with only months to go.Furthermore, while the support provided was intended to lead to a communicationsstrategy, there were no additional funds to implement such a strategy. As a consequence,researchers had few incentives to engage more than necessary.
The right people matter:
Both ODI and INASP intended to develop the capacity of thenetworks or organisations involved and not just that of the individuals who participated inthe capacity development projects. The ambition was for the people receiving the supportto then go on and train or mentor other members of their networks or organisations.Unfortunately, those who participated where not always the right people for thisobjective. Senior researchers, network coordinators, and even communicators may beexcellent candidates to make use of any skills learned during the webinars or workshops but that does not necessarily make them the most appropriate ‘trainers of trainers’. Thiswas particularly obvious in cases where the participants were coordinators of time-boundnetworks that had only been set up for the purpose of delivering the ACACIA programmethat was by then coming to an end.
Local or regional facilitators and mentors:
INASP’s approach involved usingregionally based facilitators and mentors. This had a particularly positive effect on the project. The partners learned from the mentors and enjoyed discussing the specificchallenges that they were facing with regional professionals. Conversely, ODI was able toconnect with the grantees it was supporting only after visiting their offices, and concernsabout the consultants’ lack of familiarity with their context were raised.
No one is starting from scratch:
All the grantees, to different degrees, have some sort of research communications capacity. In some cases, their personal and professionalnetworks ensure greater levels of impact than any formal research communicationstrategy could ever promise. Furthermore, many communication tactics and channels thatare common for developed countries or the United Kingdom, and that ODI and INASPare more familiar with, may not be appropriate for the grantees’ contexts. Henceregardless of the level of professionalism or resources awarded to researchcommunications none were starting from scratch.
The following recommendations are intended to inform future efforts to develop researchcommunications capacity –but could also be applicable to the development of other competenciesand skills.
Start early –right from the beginning:
Developing the capacity to communicate shouldnot come as an afterthought. Funders must plan this right from the start and service providers like ODI and INASP should be careful about being involved if this is not thecase. In these circumstances, the support should target future projects.
Confirm demand before starting:
Even before signing a contract, the service providersshould contact the grantees and effectively treat them as clients; inquiring as to their interests, concerns, and commitment to the initiative. The service providers must be veryclear regarding the time and resources that they will have to allocate to the process. Theymust also discuss, at length, who are the most appropriate people to be directly involvedand what will be their responsibilities.