Playing the ‘happy strategies’ game

In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at our communication experiences to document some of the changes we introduced and how we progressed.

NBDC Brief 8 is a summary  of the story.

As in the other basins, the Nile Basin Development Challenge comprises several linked projects – each with different leads, participants, partners and outcome logics.  Getting good communication among the various actors and partners is essential for the whole program to operate, and to have impact.

To serve these needs, we started our communication activities ‘inside’ the Challenge. In the past year, we have started to change the ways that our research knowledge is captured, shared and communicated. We are also changing the knowledge sharing behavior of project staff – by encouraging and supporting them to adopt a wider, richer – and ultimately more effective and ‘impactful’ – set of tools and approaches to project interaction, documentation, reflection, and learning.

The first priority – and our most significant progress – has been ‘inside’ the Challenge.  We are also using knowledge products, face to face meetings and extended communication approaches to communicate ongoing activities to wider audiences, nationally and beyond. The idea is to create the audience and demand for the science that we will ultimately produce. An important spillover to the ‘outside’ is in the area of communication where several changes in approach (or decisions) are directly linked to our activities.

In the story we identify five ‘promising’ changes:

  1. Project and event planning and reporting
  2. Documenting discussions and events
  3. Using different meeting formats
  4. Publishing open products
  5. Spillovers to other organizations

How significant the changes?

So far, this is difficult to judge and assess. Several individuals have become keen adopters. We are able to generate more ‘raw material’ on the various project activities that we can use to build communication products and stories. Photos, presentations and reports have all become accessible to project staff without barriers; smaller activities that would normally remain invisible are reported and shared. Project coordination and event preparation is more transparent and participatory, with minimum email traffic, and outputs shared in accessible ways.

The main challenge is to make ‘open sharing’ the default ‘setting’ for all project staff – many people are not used to documenting and sharing what they do and learn on a regular basis on open spaces.

Download the Brief

See the communication  ‘toolkit’ we use

Read a related news item on communicating agri-water research