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So You’ve Written the Research Report: What Else Do You Need to do to Ensure People Actually Read it?

Duncan Green's picture

Remember the old days when you wrote a report, published it (perhaps with some kind of executive summary), did a couple of seminars and then declared victory and moved on? Social media have changed that game almost beyond recognition: to maximize impact, any new report more closely resembles a set of Russian dolls, with multiple ‘products’ (hate that word) required to hit different audiences and get the message out. I’ve tried to list them, but am bound to have missed some – please fill in the gaps:

  • The report: 100 pages of well researched, clearly argued, and insightful thinking. Which (apart from other researchers) hardly anyone reads
  • The Overview Chapter: 10-15 pages with all the juice from the report
  • The Executive Summary: A two pager for the time-poor
  • The landing page: better be good, or people won’t click through
  • The press release, with killer facts, notes to editors, offers of interviewees, embargo times and all that old media mularkey
  • The blog post: a way of alerting your particular epistemic community to the existence of your masterpiece
  • The tweets, although personally I hate those naff ‘suggested tweets’ you get from comms people
  • The infographic: if you want to get retweets, these work much better than text. ODI currently the most infographic-tastic of development thinktanks
  • The 4 minute youtube piece, preferably not looking as knackered as Matt Andrews often does

What in the World is 'Rude Accountability'?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

I have just read a fascinating paper published by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and written by Naomi Hossain. It is titled 'Rude Accountability in the Unreformed State: Informal Pressures on Frontline Bureaucrats in Bangladesh' [IDS Working Paper Volume 2009 Number 319]. The paper describes and analyzes what happens when poor peasants in Bangladesh are being poorly served by frontline service providers like doctors and teachers in an environment where the institutional accountability mechanisms do not work. So, what do these poor peasants do? They get angry and they show it. They speak rudely to these doctors and teachers who normally expect deference. They embarrass them. They get local newspapers to name and shame them.They even engage in acts of violence like vandalism. And their reactions often produces results, particularly the media reports. This is what Hossain calls 'rude accountability'.