Southern Voice’s State of the SDG’s Initiative (SVSS) provided a unique platform for six selected teams from the Global South to explore global factors affecting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Studies came from Bolivia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Peru and Sri Lanka. To increase the impact of this research, each team appointed a person to implement a robust communications strategy together with the Southern Voice Secretariat.
A first step was the Southern Voice communications workshop in November 2018, held in Bangkok. It provided a platform for communications experts from the six selected think tanks to improve existing skills and learn about new tools. The aim was to strengthen the communications strategy and outputs of each team’s SVSS research. It was also an exciting opportunity to meet and share experiences in person with peers from different countries.
Learning lessons included: using pictures to enhance presentations rather than using too much text, creating podcasts to transmit research content more conversationally and informally, as well as learning how to write compelling and relatable blog posts or articles. The seminar also served as a basis for starting an active community of communications experts from member think tanks of the Southern Voice network. A year later, we feel that our communications outputs have improved and we can show that the findings of our research teams are being discussed in several national and international meetings. Learning how to communicate better in different ways has played a vital role in addressing the information needs of policymakers.
Based on our experience this past year in Nigeria and Peru, at the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) and Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE) respectively, we can say that some of those information needs include:
- Detailed information on the heterogeneities and situation of the left behind. It helps policymakers to prioritise which marginalised groups might require SDG-related interventions. In the case of Peru, there is a lot of data and monitoring on SDGs. However, the indicators are only estimated and monitored at the aggregated level. In this sense, GRADE’s most important contribution was the production of a baseline of the left behind in the fields of work and education with the SVSS study.
- Empirical evidence on the dimensions and drivers for achieving quality education. In Nigeria, the government is keen on making the SDGs. CSEA’s study provided the evidence needed to help bridge the gap between research outcomes, policies and implementation.
To increase this impact, at CSEA, we worked hard on expanding our visibility and network among critical stakeholders. We did this through continuous engagement and collaboration, but also by boosting our social media presence, increasing our newsletter frequency and partnering with relevant government and development agencies and other institutions. These engagements are also meant to foster the debates around the SDGs and enhance government and stakeholders’ action.
Meanwhile, at GRADE, we strengthened our dissemination activities on SDGs by engaging with local and international organisations and policymakers. We hope that our profiles of those left behind will be used as tools. They can help in the design of policies for improving the lives of people who are currently left behind. To promote this, we recently discussed our findings at the 2019 annual congress of the Peruvian Association of Economics and the UN 2019 Global Goals Week.
Making SDGs visible
In addition to a greater emphasis on fulfilling policymaker’s information needs, achieving the sustainable development agenda requires a significant focus on SDG visibility. To engage stakeholders and call citizens to action, effective communications should be a strategic priority of every organisation working on SDGs.
As think tank communicators, we have the opportunity to enhance research findings with creativity (using digital and traditional formats) and effectiveness (aiming for higher impact). The more people of all areas of life that are aware of the 2030 Agenda, the more accountable governments will be towards ensuring the implementation of the SDGs.
Through the SVSS project, the Nigeria and Peru teams had the chance to collaborate in strengthening their communications strategy for the SDGs. The initiative facilitated peer-learning and sharing best practices. Training activities like the Bangkok workshop and recent international meetings were great ways to sustain the knowledge exchange. Now each team can keep working on strengthening the engagement between evidence and policy in their respective countries.