|When Research Uptake Communications Comes Alive|
|Friday, 19 August 2016 12:48|
The series of three structured and mentored Research Uptake Communications (RUC) training activities run by DRUSSA partner Organisation Systems Design over a five-year period for the DRUSSA programme culminated with a sense of a positive onward journey. A fitting place to begin a retrospective look at the RUC Campaigns is the 6 April 2016, the day fifty-three RUC course participants gathered in one room in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the face-to-face element of the RUC2016 activity. It was a rare opportunity for this RUC community, who have networked digitally and only met at one previous event, to be in the same physical location.
It was an enriching and rewarding day. Why so? Because the course participants owned it, putting their RUC skills into use in multi-media presentations on fascinating development research projects that were aligned with the strategic Research Uptake mission of each of their Universities. By the end of the day we were all clued into exciting development research coming out of Universities across Sub-Saharan Africa that is already making, or has the potential to make a difference. Result! Research Uptake Communication in action!
What was also exciting about the day was that the Research Uptake Communicators present shared tools, tips and experiences of their Research Uptake Communications projects in the context of their Sub-Saharan African Universities. The value in this shared experience is immense, and it was clear that discussion engaged in by the participants would continue long after the conference had ended.
As the Research Uptake Communicators from the DRUSSA Universities poised themselves to continue with Research Uptake Communications for their Universities beyond the programme, this was also a day on which to look back on the foundations and skills developed in the RUC campaigns of previous years. What was strategically common to theRUC2013, 2014 and 2015/16 campaigns was the premise that a successful RUC campaign should be aligned with the University’s strategic objectives. Each mentored RUC-campaign module followed a strategic best-practice of only investing time and resources in Research Uptake Communications campaigns that were in alignment with the University’s strategic Research Uptake mission. This meant embedding a team approach with each RUC2013, 14, 15 &16 project kicking off with critical input from the RUC team (comprised of their University’s Research Uptake leader and champion, the emerging Research Uptake Communicator, and nominated researchers) all working together to select a research topic aligned with the University’s strategic objectives. With this as an embedded fundamental, RUC campaigns looked at enabling participants through sharing user-friendly skillsets and templates for action. RUC2013 was a coached process that resulted in each University producing a plain-language print and digital Research Uptake article aimed at influencing a policymaker audience. RUC2014 saw University leadership and RUC professionals selecting a piece of development research that tied in with a gender theme, and that had already been peer reviewed and published in an academic journal. The RUC professional and researcher worked together to produce useable pieces of communication material and these included website articles, some of which have already been published on the Research Uptake pages of their University websites.
In RUC2015 and RUC2016 the focus was on Running a Research Uptake Communications Campaign from a University website – a pivotal skillset for Research Uptake communicators. Again, the university strategic team approach was embedded in the campaign process.
Ahead of the 6 April workshop the Research Uptake Communications participants prepared their strategy and material for Running a Research Uptake Communications Campaign from a University website, and each University presented this their peers on the day. The Research Uptake Communicators kept it real. They presented in plain language. They referenced their Research Uptake stories on their University websites – a deliverable for the RUC 2016 campaign. And while they told the stories of the research, they shared their take on how they’ve approached Research Uptake Communication with their peers, what had worked well, and where they’d encountered difficulties. Everybody engaged with every presentation, no matter their particular fields of expertise, because the information was shared with obvious interest and expertise, and because ultimately what was shared were fascinating human stories. The collage of information that was put together was all the more interesting in a DRUSSA context, with the awareness that the individual development research stories being presented each reflected different snapshots that cumulatively created an overview of strategic university research in the Sub-Saharan region. At the end of the course, the emerging Research Uptake Communicators moved forward to independently tackle their Universities Research Uptake Communications – not on their own, but with a well-rehearsed University RUC team, and an emerging field of colleagues in the region.
We wish you all well!
* Each participant took home a RUC Handbook, a compendium of resources built up over the four years of mentoring and collaborative learning, which is available on the DRUSSA.net site
Louise McCann is a consulting communications strategist and DRUSSA’s Research Uptake Communications coach