Communication & networking

We constantly communicate, learn and network; but we seldom do it in a planned manner.  When working in a team, either as part of an organization or project, having a systematic and agreed strategy for communication, learning and networking has its advantages. A strategy can help us plan ahead and engage others; help us learn from our processes and improve them; and agree on priorities; we can document achievements and share them.

A communication strategy is basically a ‘way of thinking’; it is something to remind us that the most important component of communication is listening before telling. It also serves as a guide to decision-making.

A communication strategy can combine several PURPOSES, for example:

  • Educational communication in support of capacity development or sharing of knowledge
  • Policy communication to contribute evidence to policy development and program design
  • Listening communication to capture and integrate the perspectives and needs of the partners who have unique perspectives to contribute
  • Internal and networking communication to enhance communities of practice and enrich knowledge exchange
  • Public relations communication to get a message out and make a project known, often to secure resources and invite partners

We are committed to working with communication strategies that are user oriented, practical, and relevant[1]. We have learned to identify and value what is already in place [we all have a ‘tacit’ communication strategy in place] and help partners make this tacit (hidden) work explicit, strategic and practical.  We review PURPOSES or intent, we next look into the different audiences and stakeholders and try to learn and understand about these stakeholders/audiences as much as possible (audience research); we review what methods, media and products are in place to engage and communicate with each.  We question assumptions by asking: how much do we know about each audience in terms of what they already know, when they have time to learn, what methods and media do they prefer and can afford to use?

[1] See: Ramírez, R. 2011.Why “utilization focused communication” is not an oxymoron. Communication, media and development policy, a blog by the Communication Initiative and the BBC World Service Trust