December 2, 2019

Opinion

Awareness- Advocacy-Action: the PAC research strategy

Introduction

If a research programme wants to be successful it must ensure that it has impact. It should also ensure that all stakeholders take ownership of the action identified.

To achieve this, Public Affairs Centre (PAC) follows a three As strategy: Awareness – Advocacy – Action.

Advocacy broadly means creating awareness on an issue. Awareness refers to identifying the needs of a community. Action means promoting community engagement to enhance social change.

Awareness

In any project, generating awareness is an important element.  To do this, we take a step back to identify what the problem is, what needs to be done and who should be addressing the problem. Broadly, awareness can be described:

  • Activity: identify the past and existing problems and create dashboards to detect trends.
  • Cultural: shared knowledge often brings in disparity and difference, one should be sensitive towards this, especially while interacting with the community.
  • Community: acknowledging the existing patterns while identifying gaps by recommending workable solutions.
  • Geographic: it is important to contextualise the problem based on the location to make it more relevant.

Advocacy

Advocacy can be defined as a movement by an individual or group intended to influence political, economic, social policy. By ensuring a sound path of advocacy an organisation can:

Mobilise communities

This effectively means inclusion of communities to identify, involve and take ownership of actions to arrive at a common goal. Collective thinking garners more pressure than a single person-approach. This can be done by including both direct and indirect beneficiaries through public awareness campaigns for social change.

Ensure accountability

Ideally, the public should be in a position to make informed decisions and be able to convey their views to stakeholders.

Improve public services

By advocating on certain issues, an organisation can improve social justice. This in turn can improve and change policies at some levels. This can be done through media campaigns, public speaking, or publishing research outputs.

Action

Action research referes to the systematic process of an inquiry conducted for and by those who require to take action. Action research is also important because of its relevance to diverse stakeholders. The key purpose of action research is to establish an insightful research, prioritise action and build roadmaps to ensure sustainability in a research project.

Action research includes:

  • Identifying a problem
  • Gathering data
  • Analysing and interpreting data
  • Planning action

Identifying a problem

Once a problem is identified, a research design needs to be developed to suit the problem. This includes research methodology.

Tips

  • Develop and revise
  • Know elements which will useful
  • Identify questions which will help you gather effective answers

Gathering data

Collect data based on your research questions. Ideally, the data includes best practice and challenges faced.  While gathering data, ensure that you organise it in a way that is practical to analyse.

Tips

  • Consider using standardised test data and tested techniques
  • It can include surveys and interviews
  • Know when to stop gathering data

Analysing and interpreting data

Look at the entire data and identify any patterns or themes that emerge. In my own work I find it is helpful to lay out all of my data and the identified themes or patterns in an area that is easily visible while working. It is important to identify the what and the how of the key factors. Only after you a develop a hypothesis will the theory be developed.

Tips

  • Look for consistent patterns and themes
  • Ensure that the data is explained clearly and explicitly
  • Use the right lens to analyse and interpret data

Planning action

Once the results are analysed and documented it is important to make a decision on action. This can include continuing to address the problems with improvements, looking at the problems with a clean slate or a combination of both approaches.

Tips

  • Determine action by looking at a multitude of factors
  • Remember your research question
  • Focus on improving research

Conclusion

A well-planned research programme will ensure sustainability and leave behind an impact.


Case study

Public Affairs Centre (PAC) under the aegis of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation undertook a project to address the open defecation problem in a district in Tamilnadu.

  • Awareness: created awareness on the importance of having and using toilets
  • Advocacy:involved the community, especially women, to understand and recognise the need and used social mapping
  • Action: mobilised all key stakeholders in the community to include block officials, members of communities, children etc
About the author:

Annapoorna Ravichander:  Head of policy engagement and communication at Public Affairs Centre in Bengaluru, India, and On Think Tanks Editor at Large for South Asia.

Read more from: Annapoorna Ravichander

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