February 18, 2015

initiative

Collaborative Projects: Case studies for Communications Strategies

The communications collaborative project (CSCS) aims to exchange information and improve the communication practices of five think tanks from different regions on a shared topic of interest – “building democracy”.

Original design

This is a topic that each of the five think tanks is working on, albeit from different perspectives. CSCS initially had four components:

  1. each think tank will map the relevant aspects of its communication practices over the period 2012-2014;
  2. based on this mapping, the team will agree on appropriate case studies to explore their communication activities;
  3. the team will reflect on the case studies and lessons learnt from them; and
  4. the team will engage in “learning by doing” by designing a new communication activity for each think tank on a topic of shared interest.

Change of plans

The CSCS work plan changed slightly as a result of the October meeting in Jakarta. During the meeting the team tested their initial communication mapping methodology by producing draft “communication mapping tables” and discovered that simply mapping all communication activities would not be comprehensive enough to allow useful comparisons across think tanks.

As a result the team decided to devote more time to the case studies, so that they take into account the policy environment in which the activities take place and the stakeholders they are designed to address. This would elucidate why particular communication activities are used. This in turn will help us understand in what circumstances a communications activity might be useful for other think tanks.

Terminology also emerged as an important practical issue. Each member of the team has also surveyed the key staff of their think tank to pin down the meanings of the terminology used in communication (communication strategy, communication policies, target audiences, beneficiaries, messages, speakers, communication channels). These terms have been compared across the think tanks to ensure that the case studies of a particular activity in different think tanks do refer to the same activity!

The team is now in the midst of the case studies. Each team member is about half way through the description of the communication processes used in their think tank. The remaining questions involve the “institutional issues” that affect communication: the team has discussed in a Skype call how to tackle these issues. The current task is to complete the discussion of these issues and to formulate a list of the communication activities to be examined in the next phase of the case study.

New issues have emerged, as described above, and the project team has grown as well: IEP and CENAA have engaged research assistants to help conduct the study. But the team is still on track to meet their deadline for the completion of the case studies at the end of February 2015.