As a consultant, Minal Bopaiah worked with Population Services International to develop a strategic and integrated framework that would better allow them to communicate their findings to external audiences.
Despite producing a large amount of data and research, PSI often failed to communicate its findings to external stakeholders in ways that would help shift policy, practice and funding. The organization had a small communications team of 10, not nearly sufficient to produce technical publications for an organization of 9,000 people spread out over 50 countries. Evidence team staff were also stretched for time, and even when willing to write up their research, they often lacked the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in their communications.
Create a strategic framework that would help build internal will and guide execution of external communications of PSI’s research and data in order to shift policy, practice and funding. A sticking point was reconciling the communications best practice of only planning 12-18 months out, while researchers wanted a 3-5 year timeline for communications activities.
Minal worked across the organization to develop an easy-to-understand framework that aligned the vision and priorities of multiple departments.
Working with the Strategic Research & Evaluation department, headed by Kim Longfield, we drafted sample frameworks based on our understanding of various department’s needs. We then presented the framework to an internal steering committee for feedback, and iterated upon the model multiple times until agreement was reached.
Managing internal politics was a big part of this effort, and that meant often working in fits and starts with various departments as change was met with resistance. Employing senior leaders, as well as listening well to the needs of stakeholders, helped us build internal will for this change. It also helped to present new information to staff in their lingo. For example, we build a logic model to help explain to the evidence teams why communications needed to be targeted and strategic to be effective.
We then created a workshop to help evidence teams learn about the new model and begin using it. And we created additional tools, like an Excel spreadsheet and templates for Research Briefs, to help them plan and create their evidence-based communications.
The framework and tools received positive praise from both senior leadership and evidence staff. The framework has been adopted by the organization, and we are currently awaiting feedback on next steps for training staff.