The peculiar use of training activities as vehicles for policy research uptake in Serbia

[This blog is part of an ongoing study on communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Goran Buldioski, Director of the Think Tank Fund, and Sonja Stojanovic, Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Studies. Their first post can be found here: Civilian control of the state security sector (with special focus on military)]

This post highlights the efforts of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) in using capacity building trainings to guide  long-term influence of policy research communication. BCSP designed training courses addressing the democratic control of the armed forces in Serbia. These trainings aimed to share knowledge on the matter and present their in-depth research findings interwoven into the training sessions through a number interactive activities. The course has become a conductor of research findings to promote debate on major issues.

Using training activities as a key vehicle for research uptake is surprisingly not as common as might be expected. To be fair, many think tanks expose their trainees to the analysis they have produced in the past, and use their reports and projects as case studies throughout the training to explain an idea or illustrate a point. Yet, most  of these activities are aimed at capacity building and are not consciously designed and structured as a means for research uptake.

The practice of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) of using training courses as a key (central) tool for communication of policy research is therefore worth noting. BCSP has consciously designed a series of training courses addressing the democratic control of the armed forces as the best vehicle to secure the uptake of their research finding by the military elite. The seminars came in different formats: from half a day awareness raising discussions at the military barracks to a year-long accredited MA course in International Security organised in partnership with the Faculty of Political Science. Some seminars were organised only for military officials and civilians employed in the Ministry of Defence, although the majority targeted a more diverse groups composed of young politicians, representatives of civil society, media, and different government agencies.

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The People, The Planet, The Can: Emerging lessons from policymakers’ perspective

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This blog is the second from Shannon Kenny on “The People, The Planet, The Can: The social marketing and re-branding of breastmilk in South Africa” chapter.]

By Flickr user Gates Foundation (CC).

This post conveys one government Health policy maker’s insights on the relationship between policy-makers, researchers, communicators, media, and civil society. It reflects their opinion, rather than an official statement, on the government’s approaches to research uptake, policy implementation, and communication out of their own experience from working closely with researchers and introducing a number of policy reforms in the public sector.

Political support and commitment is not just helpful but vitally important for effective and timely policy implementation. That said, change does not happen over-night and wisely navigating the political landscape was a key strategy for the championing of specific research ideas that they felt needed to be implemented into policy. Working in a province such as the one in which they operate requires a steely resolve on the part of them and their colleagues, since there are no ‘small issues’ in an area with high levels of poverty and disease that ultimately affect the population as a whole.

On the other hand, the great need to improve the health and decrease the mortality and morbidity of a poverty-stricken population, they believe, has provided an opportunity for innovation and faster implementation of better policy. And where traditional approaches have been less effective or failed, they have had the opportunity to operate with more latitude and flexibility to take calculated risks.

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The dilemmas of budget advocacy via the media

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Muhammad Maulana, Research and Development Coordinator at Seknas FITRA, and Bagus Saragih, a journalist at the Jakarta Post Daily]

Transparency

By Flickr User Divergence (CC).

Civil society groups (CSOs) have often been met with resistance when communicating their ideas to a wider policy audience. The situation exacerbates further when policy makers conduct their own policy analyses using “in-house” research units.

This post tells the story of how a local CSO, calling for greater budget transparency and accountability, instigated change by communicating differently. And how it was able to reach the public via print and electronic media, shedding light on the importance of budget management.  

In the Indonesian context, it is no easy task to encourage transparent and publicly accountable expenditure of State budgets directed squarely, as the Constitution requires, at the promotion of public welfare. This has certainly been the experience of the National Secretariat of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Seknas FITRA) which for years now has been advocating greater budget transparency and accountability in Indonesia.

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The people, the planet, the can – The social marketing and re-branding of breastmilk

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Anna Coutsoudis, who established the first community-based breastmilk bank in South Africa www.ithembalethu.org.za and is a founding member of HMBASA (Human Milk Banking Association of South Africa) www.hmbasa.org.za which she currently chairs; Shannon Kenny and Patrick Kenny and independent communication consultants; creative directors, Mixed Media, Durban.]

By Flickr user Gates Foundation (CC).

This chapter takes a closer look at a team composed of researchers and communicators, who have joined forces to address a common issue: re-branding of breastmilk/breastfeeding with the aim to decrease the risk of infant mortality. What are their similarities, differences and how are both ultimately reconciled? Also, the relationship between policymakers and their funders, and how they both communicate messages to the broader public is another one of the main questions at hand.

South Africa is one of the countries with an ever-increasing infant mortality rate. In fact it is one of the few countries where this has happened. Coutsoudis, Coovadia and King cited in The Lancet that research has shown how infant mortality is on the rise because of the increase in Formula Feeding. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of infant mortality. Unfortunately, formula feeding is increasing despite the fact that breastmilk is scientifically proven to be immeasurably better.

Unfortunately, breastmilk/breastfeeding do not have the advantage of better marketing and advertising. One solution to this problem is the re-branding of breastmilk/breastfeeding.

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Public poisoning as ‘communication’ in Ecuador: Lessons from the perpetuation of harmful technology

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Stephen Sherwood, Andrea Ordóñez and Myriam Paredes.]

By Flickr user Velaia (ParisPeking) (CC).

Shedding light on the role action-research can play in changing the way individuals go about their daily lives, this chapter discusses how research is used to create awareness about the harmful use of pesticides. Two communication approaches are presented: one that is top-down largely focused on communicating with policymakers towards new policies for a better society; and the other one of a grassroots nature – changing practices at the personal and community level. Which one can be more effective in creating change on the ground?

To consider the intricate relations between practice, communications, and policy, we will reflect on over a decade of action-research on the use and harmful consequences of highly toxic pesticides in Ecuador.

Beginning in the early 1990s, research on this issue focused on potato production in the northernmost province of Carchi in Ecuador –a region that has been described as “the model of agricultural modernization” in the Andes. Although this could be thought of as a positive description of the region’s agriculture, pesticides were in fact becoming a dangerous companion of farmers’ daily lives.

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Middle East education reform think tank project

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Ted Purinton and Amir ElSawy at the American University in Cairo]

Two researchers from the American University in Cairo have come together to gain a better understanding of how think tanks and policymakers discuss education reform in the Middle East. Targeting pre-university and university levels, the idea is to understand the differences between international educational trends and how they are translated and practiced in the Arab world.

This blog is a component of a project we are working on regarding the communication challenges that think tanks have in conveying complex research to diverse audiences. Our work is a subset of a larger project organized by GDNet. Our specific aim is to examine how think tanks communicate research–and most importantly, policy recommendations–to policymakers, reformers, journalists, and other researchers in the Middle East, specifically on the topic of education, at both the university and pre-university levels.

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Civilian control of the military in Serbia

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Goran Buldioski, Director of the Think Tank Fund, but the team includes other members of the Belgrade Centre for Security Studies (BCSS).]

Assessing how research uptake has changed as a result of a dynamic political environment, this chapter cites the experience of a team of researchers and a full-time communications professional in bringing their ideas to a greater audience. What makes this piece unique, however, is that it tackles the very controversial idea of the civilian control over the military.

There are no easy policy changes. Yet, some are more difficult to influence than others. The civil oversight of the military is one of the essential tenets of democracy and perhaps one of the most complex issues in setting up democratic governance anywhere.

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) has been engaged in the civil oversight of the Serbian security sector since it was founded 15 years ago with unmatched success by any other local or regional independent organisation.

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Can think tanks have the cake and eat it too? CIPPEC’s dilemmas in promoting electoral reform in Argentina

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by María Page, Coordinator of the Politics and Public Management Program at CIPPEC.]

By Flickr user CatelncBA (CC).

This is a piece about how communicating a certain cause using specific tools can create change on the public policy level. Discussing electoral reform in Argentina and how that can be achieved, we will take a closer look at how the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), a local think tank, advocated for the change – the adoption of the single ballot voing system in Argentina.

In Argentina, we use the French ballot voting system: each political party prints, distributes and supplies its own ballots during Election Day. The system worked fairly well while there were two main parties of relatively equal size, territorial outreach and resources. But after the 2001 socioeconomic and political crisis, extreme party fragmentation rendered the voting system archaic, ineffective and inequitable.

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Developing Critical Thinking Capacity to Communicate

A book on how to communicate complex ideas

Researchers are more likely to be influenced by research than by the recommendations and advice of practitioners. They are also more likely to be influenced by research undertaken by themselves or their peers than by that carried out by others in contexts and with tools different to those that they are used to “Mendizabal”.Critical Thinking

Misinterpretation happens, and more often it happens that communications practitioners can communicate wrong ideas to policy audience as well as to many others. Still communications’ complexities are numerous; many of which include that arising from the complexity of ‘policy influencing process’ and the many different actors involved, ‘internal and external factors’ affecting think tanks’ environments, ‘diversity , function and ideology’, among other intriguing factors to miscommunication. Capacity to communicate should not be one of those complexities. The ability to communicate complex ideas, especially the ones resulting from evidence-based research, should not be at risk.

A few months ago, a proposal for a book on “Communicating complex ideas and critical thinking” was initiated by Enrique Mendizabal in partnership with GDNet. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries.

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