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Submitted by Joseph Ngwegwe on

Innovating Research findings dissemination for effective results

How we share information in our communities should largely determine a strategy to communicate policy information. If you quickly examine our daily life how many of our population accesses newspapers, Radio, television and nowadays social networks? How do we share sensitive information? What factors determines the speed at which information spreads? Fundamentally why do people share information anyway (especially from one person to another), what motivates you to share particular information and not the rest of what you’ve come across? When developing a communication strategy these are some of the questions we should be seeking answers to.

Policy information must be categorized and digressed to meet diverse targets and that will be determined by what do we exactly want this target group to do once they know about these facts. To influence policy practices our anchor target as you (David) have pointed out in your opening article are the policy designers and implementers. I don’t want to believe that these people are not aware of research insights we produce about policies. In a worst case scenario even if they haven’t seen a certain report at least they know where to get one if in need. The biggest challenge with our policy makers lays in their propensity and reaction to risks. Those of us who do research would want the findings to be of use, we would want policies are developed on the basis of these evidences. However, the policy development processes in the government are bureaucratic and in most cases politically influenced. My point here is that if we see nothing happening as to the effect of a certain powerful study we should not feel so much disappointed about it. Perhaps our strategy should be to use the Pareto principle, i.e. amongst the studies we have made what are the 20% that can lead into 80% of the envisaged results? Does every study we make carry with it same level of importance and sensitivity?

How communication flows in the communities depends on many facets, major one being culture (mainly language factor), level of education, individual purchasing power, age, gender etc. The most effective method to share information is still word of mouth through the physical social networks i.e. person to person, usually at home, in drinking places, in public transport, at work places during break hours, in formal meetings etc. The current technologically supported social networks are basically complementing. The reason why the social networks like Twitter, Facebook and the mobile applications e.g. SMS, Viber, Whatsapp, etc have become ubiquitous is because they almost fit into the traditional ways of communication. People who have never been trained in using computer applications are finding it easy to work with extremely sophisticated technologies and communication has been made simple.

For us to be successful we must fit our communication strategy into these innovations and we have to do it in a way that makes people feel excited not only to know about what we trying to convey but also thrill them to share with colleagues and friends. We must have a place to begin, you call them ‘connectors’ I call them ‘Anchors of social networks’. Who are they? These are individuals who have won hundreds of thousand or thousands of followers in their networks they range from artists to politicians, when they post news in their networks many followers actively engage in the discussions. These are everywhere in the country and around the global. We would need therefore to engage them and test whether they can make sense out of our research findings. Research findings dissemination needs to explore these networks and find convenient and exciting ways to reach their audiences more effectively.