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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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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