Tag Archives: communications

Making sure your research doesn’t sit on the shelf: my recent experience in South Asia

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Getting your research into action!

Earlier this year I joined the South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub (K-Hub) made up of research institutes located in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka (one in each country), as their knowledge management specialist. The K-Hub  is funded by the Asian Development Bank for three years and has some additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (specifically on the topic of innovative sanitation). It’s an exciting initiative that I’m looking forward to working with. What exactly will I do?

My role is to help the research centres have more impact with their research.  There is often an underlying assumption that good information will lead to good decisions. In reality, decision-making is a process and researchers have a role to play beyond producing information (creating a report does not mean you have influence!).  The people I’m working with are experiencing a shift from being predominantly researchers to ‘influencers of change’.

Our internal K-Hub journey started with a capacity assessment, followed by a group training on how to influence policy and practice for researchers. Each institute is now developing a work plan to guide efforts in their respective countries.

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NIUA from India presenting their stakeholder influencing map

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ITN-BUET from Bangladesh working on their influencing strategy.

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NIUA from India group discussion on influencing strategy.

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University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka developing their influencing strategy. The workshop was in Sri Lanka so many team members participated!

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Institute of Engineering from Tribuvan University in Nepal and their government partner are working on their influencing strategy. They came on board just before the meeting so only 2 members were able to participate on short notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The training we undertook in May 2014 introduced a process to help the researchers consider from the start how their findings might be used, and how to build bridges with others so the priorities they identify can become the priorities of their governments and practitioners.  Given there are similar efforts being undertaken around the world (building capacity for influencing policy/practice), I wanted to share our process so far including the methodology we are working with.

 

There are many ways to go about this (see note below) and after reviewing a lot of material generated by others combined with my own experience, I narrowed it down to six steps:

Step 1: Define the issue

Step 2: Articulate the goal

Step 3: Understand your context

Step 4: Identify decision makers, key actors and relationships

Step 5: Describe your influence story

Step 6: Monitoring and learning

Each step is part of a thinking process to remind researchers about WHY they are undertaking the research and that research is only part of the influencing process.  Indeed, we need to build evidence however we can also play a role in helping knowledge to be used to make change happen. You can find the six-step process described in detail (with activities to help you think through the step) in the attached guide (TrainingWorkbook_SL May 4-5-Final Formatted). I view the guidebook as a living document to be updated based on the experience of our K-Hub. Feel free to send me comments as well! The accompanying power point is here: K-hub_Training_May4-5_Final

While obvious for some, planning for change (i.e. outcomes) is quite challenging for many people. Project design (including research) based on outputs and activities has been acceptable practice for a long time.  No one asked why are you doing this research or this project?  What difference will it make? What change will you contribute to and how? Given this is a different way of thinking for the K-Hub researchers I don’t expect the shift will happen in a day.  However, I will be satisfied with my contribution when I hear the researchers talking about changes they want to contribute to, people they need to network with and why their strategy is working (or not) rather than reports and seminars. We have two to three years…

 

NOTE:

In developing the methodology, I reviewed numerous resources on line. Some of these resources are listed at the end of the training manual however many more were consulted, particularly on the theory behind influencing policy and practice.  I also interviewed three practitioners who provided me invaluable advice.  Thank you Enrique Mendizabal (onthinktanks.org), Nancy White (fullcirc.com) and James Georgalakis (http://www.ids.ac.uk/person/james-georgalakis) for generously sharing your ideas.

 

These musings are my personal reflections and I will be sure to keep reflecting (and updating you) on the process over the next two years. Webpages with project information are being developed by the K-Hub and will be shared when available. The ADB project page is http://www.adb.org/projects/46465-001/main

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Linking research to policy – my new project

I have recently joined an interesting project to establish a South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub (funded by the Asian Development Bank).  I will have the opportunity to work with research institutes in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (to start) on sustainable development issues in the urban sector. My role as knowledge management specialist is to build capacity of the researchers to undertake outcome focused research for policy influencing.  I am tasked with creating a template to help the researchers develop policy influencing strategies, improve technical writing skills for policy briefs, provide a 2-day training workshop and will also act as a mentor on an ongoing basis for two years.  For anyone who knows me, this sounds like a dream!

In some ways, it is a dream and in other ways, I have gone down a rabbit hole of jargon that is giving me nightmares.

evaluator_jargon_evalblogAs I consider the assessment I need to undertake as a first step, I cannot imagine asking people about their familiarity or confidence level in using tools like: problem trees, objective tress, force field analysis, stakeholder maps, SWOT, theory of change, the RAPID framework, alignment/interest/influence matrix, outcome mapping, advocacy strategy, communications strategy, etc etc etc.  Don’t you feel overwhelmed just reading the list of available and suggested tools? I do.

This is forcing me to really take a step back and figure out what I need to know from the participants beforehand in order to design a good training and what is the best way to get the information from them (this is before I even start doing the real work!).

While originally I thought a simple online survey would work, I have decided that this is not the best tool given many people may not use the same terms for undertaking analytical tasks.  My simple assessment could get wordy and complicated.  Moreover, if I leave the online survey open-ended, I won’t have the opportunity to really understand the responses provided without proper follow-up.  This leads me to the idea of conducting group interviews with each centre.  This way, I can probe into the questions I ask with the group from each centre and build on the conversation as it evolves. I believe I will gain a better understanding of the types of methods they have used (or not used) previously.

I have already had one introductory Skype meeting with each centre so this is also a nice way to build our relationship given I am going to be working with them for the next two years.

Sooooo…given I want to learn about what experience (or lack of experience) the centres have with undertaking outcome oriented research for policy influencing these are the questions I’m considering using to guide my interviews.  The results need to inform the design of a template for policy influencing as well as a 2-day training for the centres.  I would love your feedback as its still in draft form.  Or maybe you work in this area and have other bits of advice for me?  If so, thanks for sharing!

1.    Please share an example or two of research you undertook in the past specifically with the purpose of changing policy:

  • How was the research topic decided?
  • Did the research lead to a change? If yes, what were the key factors?
  • Did you document your assumptions for creating change? If yes, how?
  • Were other actors/partners involved? How so?
  • Did you have a strategy in place that you followed?
  • Did you use specific tools or techniques to understand the different actors/stakeholders involved?  Those who would support or challenge your research?
  • How did you monitor the change that took place?
  • How do you know your influence on the change, as opposed to other outside forces?
  •       If not, have you used a strategy for other advocacy work? If yes, please describe what this looked like.
  •       If not, how do you feel embarking on this type of work in the future? What are you most excited about and most concerned about?

 

2.    Please describe how you typically disseminate the knowledge generated from research.

  • What methods do you use? Example strategy?
  • What has been most successful? What has been least successful?
  • How do you define your audiences?
  • Do you typically write different messages for different audiences?
  • Do you work with communication professionals?
  • What type of communications products do you think policy makers find most useful? For example:
    • Policy briefs
    • Opinion articles, News items
    • Media, Community radio
    • Working groups
    • High profile events
    • Public pressure

3.    To what extent are policies in your field evidence-informed?

  • What are some of the factors that determine whether, and to what extent, evidence informs or even influences policy decisions?
  • Is demand a necessary condition for the uptake of research?
  • Do you think well-conceived and compellingly packaged research findings stimulate the interest of policy makers?

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Graphic Facilitation Workshop September 23-24, 2013 – Registration Open!

Warming up at Graphic Facilitation workshop.

Warming up at Graphic Facilitation workshop.

I am pleased to announce that there will be a Graphic Facilitation Workshop in Rossland, B.C., Canada September 23-24th, 2013!  Otherwise known as #Rosviz, this will be our fourth offering in this beautiful mountain location.  If you are looking to improve your communication and engagement skills using a mix of text and visuals, this workshop is for you.

When might we use this practice?

Sometimes our imaginations are sparked by a visual where words fail us. Think about when communities plan and imagine their futures, when teams consider the possible outcomes for their projects, when groups create maps to track their progress.  Whether you are strategic planning, enhancing reports or explaining concepts on the back of the napkin, these are all opportunities to use visuals to engage and deepen understanding. You can use visual thinking to improve teamwork, communications, meetings, build engagement and to plan and evaluate work. Step out of the PowerPoint rut!

Who should attend?

Facilitators, project managers, team leaders and members, town planners, teachers and anyone who would like to engage others beyond words. 

Please note:You do NOT need previous experience or have to consider yourself an artist. At some level, we can all draw and use visuals to enhance our communications and engage diverse audiences.

“I am still on cloud 9 after the Graphic Facilitation workshop. Thank you soooo much. I feel recharged after that! You two are such great facilitators.  You were willing to bend over backwards to ensure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves/ learning to our full potential.  There wasn’t a moment that I was not completely engaged during the workshop.”

 Maddy Koch
Community Planning Assistant (2012 workshop participant)

To get a glimpse of what you could be doing Sept 23-24th, check out the harvest from last years workshop: http://michellelaurie.com/2012/07/28/reflections-on-3-days-of-graphic-facilitation-in-rossland-b-c-rosviz/

Details at a glance:

Location: Rossland, BC, Canada (1 hr flight from Vancouver or Calgary, 2.5 hrs drive north of Spokane, Washington)

Dates and Time: September 23-24, 2013 (9am-5pm) (*note we condensed the 2.5 day workshop from previous years to fit into 2 days to accommodate peoples’ busy schedules)

Price: $850 + GST (Registering before July 1st?  You get the early bird rate: $700+GST)

More info?  Email: Michelle Laurie (michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com)

More details found at: http://michellelaurie.com/graphic-facilitation-workshops-2013/

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Improving your tweets

My Uncle is a pediatrician in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  He took forty plus years of knowledge and wrote a book on health issues for babies (0-5 yrs).  This encyclopedia of information is a fantastic resource for any new parent!  Lately he starting tweeting tidbits of advice on Twitter and I had a look to see how I might help improve the tweets and get more followers.  Below are some of my ideas for improvement.

old: ANY REGRESSION IN #DEVELOPMENTALMILESTONES RAISES A RED FLAG.

revised: Any regression in #developmentalmilestones raises a red flag.  #toddlers #babies

old: DO NOT FORCE YOUR CHILD TO EAT. IT WILL BE A BATTLE THAT YOU SELDOM WILL WIN.

revised: Do not force your #child to eat.  It will be a battle that you seldom will win.  #toddler #eatinghabits #parenting

old: LIMIT MILK INTAKE TO 500-600 ML (18-20 OUNCES) DAILY.MEALTIME SHOULD BE PLEASURE TIME.

revised: Limit milk intake to 500-600ml (18-20 oz) daily.  Meal time should be pleasure time.  #toddler #eatinghabits #parenting

old: TO PREVENT YOUR TODDLER FROM BECOMING A#PICKYEATER DO NOT FILL HIS/HER TUMMY WITH FLUIDS.

 revised: To prevent #toddler from becoming a #pickyeater do not fill his/her tummy with fluids #eatinghabits

In summary,  I added several #tags to key words that people might search for on twitter.  You can tag as many words as you want in the sentence itself or as additions at the end.  I also suggested he might gain followers if he provides real time advice.  For example, he could send a tweet like:
Have questions on the #health of your #baby #infant #toddler?  Tweet your Q’s for expert #medicaladvice  

If you have further tips for improving tweets, please share so we can help Old Doc Lester share his knowledge (and learn for ourselves too!).  You can follow him on twitter @DrMickeyLester.

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Reflections on 3 days of graphic facilitation in Rossland, B.C, #rosviz

Rosviz, our annual graphic facilitation workshop in Rossland, B.C. finished July 20th however I am still buzzing as the ‘harvests’ of the 3 day ‘drawing on walls’ adventure keep rolling in!

As one of the activities on the last day, Nancy White (co-conspirator) and I invited groups to create harvests of their own using video, a graphic recording mural and a mystery station!  Here are a few of the creative artefacts that emerged!

Group 1’s Video Harvest:

Group 2’s Video Harvest:


Group 3’s Video Harvest:

 

Harvest Journal (saved onto Dropbox!)

 

Our Participatory Graphic Recording Harvest Wall

Reflections

Hosting a 3 day workshop is energizing, exhausting and filled with learning.  What did I take home this year?  In no particular order, here are a few of my gems:

–        People are amazingly creative when given space, tools and opportunities

–        Learn a dozen icons to have in the back pocket – it’s worth the practice!

–        Facilitating with a partner can be a fantastic experience.  It provides time to re-juvenate between sessions, gives participants a blending of styles and has the benefit of bouncing ideas off someone which leads to a better product.  Thank you Nancy!

–        Prepare, prepare, prepare and then… embrace improv.

–        Trust the universe and trust what you bring and offer.

 

***You can see all the photos from our 3-day workshop on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/rosviz12/ 

Thank you to all the amazing folks that participated in graphic facilitation workshops  in 2010, 2011, and 2012 for sharing your enthusiasm for the practice and inspiring me to push my limits with incorporating visuals into my work.  Yahoo!

P.s. Planning for 2013 has not yet begun but if you want the workshop in your town, contact me as we are open to ideas!

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Graphic Facilitation Workshop is Just Around the Corner…

The early bird deadline is past, but we are sending out the word at a couple of face to face workshops in the next few weeks and the time to commit is NOW!  Nancy White and I have learned so many new things this year that we want to share.  There is much to learn from the group as well as so far  the folks who have signed up are fascinating and a few are far flung! We are expecting great, diverse interactions. We have a few more spaces available so MAKE YOUR MOVE!

As a reminder:

When might we use this practice?

Sometimes our imaginations are sparked by a visual where words fail us. Think about when communities plan and imagine their futures, when teams consider the possible outcomes for their projects, when groups create maps to track their progress.  Whether you are strategic planning, enhancing reports or explaining concepts on the back of the napkin, these are all opportunities to use visuals to engage and deepen understanding. You can use visual thinking to improve teamwork, communications, meetings, build engagement and to plan work. Step out of the PowerPoint rut!

Who should attend?

Facilitators, project managers, team leaders and members, town planners, teachers and anyone who would like to engage others beyond words. Please note:You do NOT need previous experience or have to consider yourself an artist. At some level, we can all draw and use visuals to enhance our communications and engage diverse audiences.

Join us July 18-20th in Rossland, B.C.

All details are here: http://michellelaurie.com/training-and-workshops/graphic-facilitation-workshop-july18-20/

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Climate Change 201 in the making

In 2010, with the help of creative colleagues (Ingrid Liepa and Zeb Hansell) I pulled together a short animation on climate change science for the Columbia Basin.  I was coordinating a three year project on helping local governments to adapt to the impacts of climate change  and created this animation to kick off our community and local government workshops with baseline information.  The animation was intended to replace the need for a long powerpoint explaining how the climate works and what the modeling was telling us. The key message was : Be ready for a future that is different from the past!  It was a great workshop starter and people appreciated the short synopsis.

The same creative group has come together once again to update the video with new information on extreme weather and ways people can act.  I am excited to be tasked with the storyboard –  giving life to a 50 page text document.

Climate Change 201 (our working title) intends to help people move to action rather than simply stating the facts.  I am looking for creative ways to tell this story….is it a conversation on the steps of city hall, a downtown cafe, in the ski hill lift line?  What metaphors might tap into peoples’ imagination?  What ultimately inspires you to learn more and to act? Do you have an idea to share?

Your ideas – mainstream or wacky – are welcome!

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