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Communicating research

Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) is a ten-year, CA$35 million research partnership between Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) that supports research for improved long-term food security in East and Southern Africa. In 2014, WRENmedia was contracted to provide wide-ranging consultation and support to the first phase of CultiAF’s communication activities, and has continued to work with the programme in phase two launched in 2019. Throughout our time working with CultiAF, we have worked closely with the research teams, as well as providing higher-level programme outputs. For most researchers, communication does not always come naturally so a key part of our approach has been to build confidence alongside honing key messages to build effective awareness about each project.

Changing approaches to training With the constraints of working from home during 2020, ahead of a 2-hour webinar to senior IDRC staff, WRENmedia delivered its first virtual presentation training course to nine research teams who had been asked to deliver 5-minute presentations. It provided an exciting opportunity for us to deliver effective, online communications support during COVID restrictions.

“The pre-webinar training with WRENmedia was very beneficial as I learnt how to communicate technical information in simple English so that it is easily understood.” – Jackson Efitre of the Harnessing the dietary nutrients of underused fish-based products CultiAF project in Uganda.

Earlier training was, of course, face-to-face, including a week-long workshop held in March 2015 in Nairobi to support to research teams in developing communication strategies, as well as providing practical skills in the use of blogging and social media for research communication, as well as photography. Teams also interacted with selected African science journalists and were given tips and practical experience of being interviewed for radio and/or TV. ​ ​

In 2016, two further training days included one to help teams develop gender outcome stories and key messages; and a second on refining key messages and improving presentation skills to provide a honed presentation prior to a 1-day IDRC side event at the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). The training was hailed as a great success with teams delivering impactful presentations in just 5 minutes each.

“Thanks to the preparation from WRENmedia... This is producing amazing results.” – Renaud DePlaen, CultiAF programme leader for IDRC.

As a result of this success, the WRENmedia team were asked to undertake further training with IDRC research teams for the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund initiative in October 2018.

Reporting on impact

In collaboration with correspondents in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, a series of ‘stories from the field’ were produced in the first phase to highlight project activities and successes, which were published in national and regional publications:

In this current phase, we will be working again with correspondents in each of these countries to provide further stories from the field.

To engage with international audiences, WRENmedia has supported IDRC with promoting awareness and engagement of CultiAF on social media. At the presentation training workshop in 2016, short videos were recorded with each team to highlight key messages in 30 second soundbites, which were used in social media posts during the AGRF side event. With WRENmedia also live tweeting about the during the research teams presentations, our coverage generated over 20,000 impressions in one day in addition to the coverage provided by IDRC.

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