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In South Asia challenges faced in development communication program and solutions that worked for
us. Some of these include:
Bringing everyone to the same page (internal)
• Reaching out to the most important stakeholders for policy influencing
• Non-availability of funds (for the team)
• Discovering that vital information is stuck somewhere and fails to reach the right audience at the
right time
• Capturing important events to cater to the needs of a specific audience
• Creating and disseminating communication outputs
Challenge 1: Production and dissemination of communication materials
It is not just the creation of good and robust content that is important. Disseminating this content is
equally important.
Some ideas for solutions included:
Digitalizing documents and uploading them on websites, hence making them available in a
repository within the organization. This can be for the consumption of both internal and external
audiences. However, we feel that some documents have to be printed. Sometimes, hard copies of
annual reports need to be submitted to regulatory boards as part of legal procedures. For
example, all organizations have to submit two copies of their annual report to the Anti Sexual
Harassment Cell of their state government. Documentation of number of cases (if any), trainings,
activities etc. are included in the annual reports.
• Organizations can promote their sustainability practices, for example using certified production, to
stakeholders and the public. This will increase brand value and the organization's reputation and
in turn will help to increase the dissemination of printed communication material.
• Another solution we propose is to create short media pieces of reports to capture the attention of
an audience. For example, the Institute of Economic Growth, based in New Delhi released a book
titled The Political Economy of India’s Growth Episodes. The book runs over 100 pages and, to
get an overview of the book, a short video was created. This video included interviews of the
authors and the panelists of the sessions. It was published online and disseminated on social
media platforms and shared with various stakeholders.
• Technical reports and other publications can be submitted to the public and university libraries for
circulation amongst faculty, students and other interested parties. For instance, Shakti Sustainable
Energy Foundation contributed several publications to the National Library of Congress in
Washington DC. These publications have been catalogued in the Library’s collection for further
circulation and are now available for reading.
Perhaps digitalizing content can be a solution for the future of organizations, especially because
people want information quickly. Hard copies have become redundant, and being able to update
information is imperative.
Challenge 2: Communication with researchers to create communication materials
This has been one of the greatest challenges for communicators to break through the nexus of
researchers. This happens particularly when communication materials need to be created, or when a
quick quote is requested by a media outlet.
Having a good rapport with researchers, both at the project and individual levels, works well.
Understand and learn the nuances of project proposals dialogue and discuss with researchers
when clarifications are required. This can be done either in an informal way or through more
formal meetings. Check-lists with a set of questions can be used to get the information you need
from researchers to produce policy briefs, blogs or other communication materials.
• Communicators must be aware of developments in their respective sectors, which will help them
connect the dots and be able to assess the validity of a researcher’s inputs. Communicators must
always double check data and facts- even researchers may inadvertently provide inaccurate
• Innovative ideas and communication tools can work as catalysts to inspire researchers to provide
their inputs. Senior researchers are busy with various external engagements which often make
them unavailable for internal communication teams. Short videos or interviews with mid-level and
junior researchers to share on social media can be very effective communication outputs.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) applies this strategy with the objective to communicate with
its social media followers and quickly disseminate facts and information on contemporary issues.
As social media platforms are gaining popularity rapidly among young generations in South Asia,
this strategy serves both ways – in gaining expected response from the target audience and
having required support and content from the research team.
In short, work on a healthy and collaborative relationship between researchers and communicators
from the start of a research project to the final output, along with innovative ideas to use appropriate
communication tools will help address this challenge.
Challenge 3: Fundraising for communications team
In some organizations, there are no separate funds for the various activities handled by a
communication team. Either they are included in a project or program or often do not have a stake.
• A strong component of communications should be included in all proposals. After all, most
projects do require visibility and dissemination factors which in turn will raise the brand of an
• Experienced team members can be encouraged to provide consultancies to other organizations.
The organization may have to look at the legal aspects of providing consultancies. The experience
of individuals in a communication team can be used to provide professional services at a fee. For
example, a graphic designer can design logos, standees, banners or publications during events.
After all, every organization wants to have quality results in terms of design and content.
• In some cases, communication teams can be encouraged to write proposals to seek funds for
their units.
Challenge 4: Enhancing the quality of research outputs
All organizations are in the process of ensuring that the quality of research outputs are excellent. In
fact, some funders have made this a mandate to organizations they support financially. Ideally a
communications team is involved in this activity.
Processes for publications can be established by introducing an editorial cycle which could include
an aspect of peer review.
Key outputs can be given a green flag by a person of authority in the organization.
While most communication team members do not have a technical background, they are uniquely
placed to review a report for logic and common sense