[This article was originally published in the On Think Tanks 2018 Annual Review. ]
To whom should we disseminate our research? Audiences can be policymakers, a particular community, academia and/or the private sector. Engaging each stakeholder group requires a different strategy. For example, to engage a policymaker, the think tank needs to be credible and support its recommendations with robust evidence. Policymakers need non-technical one-pagers. Academia on the other hand, may best be engaged through a detailed report or research paper. But how can think tanks engage the public at large? The conventional way to engage the public is through articles, research papers, policy briefs and working papers. However, technological advancements have introduced many more effective and efficient tools, especially social media and mainstream digital media.
The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has a unique way of engaging the public with its web-based Sustainable Development Television (SDTV). Engaging people in the online world, where there is a lot of information and people barely have time to open and read, is not an easy task. However, the trick is to create a niche. SDTV’s niche is short clips and videos on sustainable development. When we say short, we are talking less than five minutes to get across our message without losing the research’s credibility. Once people are engaged, they can opt to explore further. That is where longer videos and documentaries come in handy.
SDTV provides production services, which include short video packages, documentaries and talk shows, to its valued viewers. Through its seasoned staff, SDTV is busy providing quality services from pre-production (i.e. finalising the story board to scripting and field work) to post production (i.e. final editing). SDTV reflects SDPI’s drive to operate as a dynamic organisation. Through its web-TV, SDPI reaches out to wider groups, including public and private sector, legislators, policymakers, experts, researchers, students and academia, civil society, media and professionals.
Through its innovative and forward-looking approach, SDTV also provides live streaming and broadcasting services to its valued customers for greater outreach and advocacy and public engagement. Those who couldn’t join us physically at our events can watch them live on SDTV. Our stakeholders not only include students but also researchers, policymakers and academia. SDPI’s annual sustainable development conference (December 2018) had 2,942 viewers from 26 countries including Afghanistan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, UK and US!
The research video packages focus on energy, trade, environment, climate change, the China-Pakistan economic corridor, bilateral relations, gender, health, education, economy and other issues of sustainable development. Videos are uploaded to the website, YouTube, and social media including Facebook and Twitter. Hence, the final product is disseminated to a wider audience.