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WRENmedia training: Steph and Sophie head across the pond

Continuing a longstanding working relationship with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), over the summer, WRENmedia was contracted by the Centre to deliver presentation training to researchers of their ‘CIFSRF’ food security initiative.

Sophie and Steph attend the IDRC and Global Affairs Canada food security event in Ottawa

As an unusually warm September came to a close, Steph and I prepared ourselves for a week-long work trip to a cooler climate in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. On our arrival, we would be meeting with researchers and experts in the field of agricultural development from across the globe. Our task was to enhance the ability of the researchers to clearly communicate the achievements of their food security projects.

The researchers were all part of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), an initiative aimed at addressing global hunger through the scaling of practical agricultural innovations to increase nutritious food production, and coordinated by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada. As such, diverse projects were developed across Africa, Asia and Latin America and the results are extremely impressive. In India, for example, one project has scaled-up the production of salt fortified with iron and iodine, which is now reaching more than 50 million people in the country. And in Africa, nearly 338,000 farmers in Benin and Nigeria have been reached with training in fertiliser micro-dosing practices, enabling them to sustainably increase nutritious vegetable production and enhance their incomes. Other innovations from across Cambodia, Colombia and South Africa include improved fisheries development, nutritious potato production, and the testing of heat-stable and multi-valent livestock vaccines.

After nine years, the CIFSRF projects ended in the summer of this year and the achievements were celebrated with an end-of-programme conference, Towards a food secure future: Lessons from CIFSRF and beyond on 3-4 October. To highlight the programme’s impacts to policymakers, potential donors and members of the Canadian public attending the event, CIFSRF researchers presented five-minute PowerPoint presentations explaining the nature of their innovations and the widescale results for local communities.

Presentation training with a participatory approach

For Steph and I, the objective was to work with these researchers ahead of the event to help them strengthen the content of their PowerPoints and ensure their delivery was dynamic and impactful. To achieve this, we filmed the participants delivering their presentations so they could watch back their performance to make any necessary improvements. The other participants, as well as IDRC staff, were then asked to provide frank but constructive feedback. It was encouraging to observe the supportive environment that was created through these exercises, and to watch as new relationships formed between the researchers.

We also created a more active exercise which involved the researchers throwing a ball to each other. Whoever caught the ball had to describe a key impact of their project in just 20 seconds. We then split the researchers into groups and took them down to a recording studio to film their ‘key messages’ for use on social media. Practicing these concise key messages helped the researchers to explain the value of their projects to Canada’s Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, among other attendees at a VIP mixer event following the training.

Ahead of the mixer, there was an air of excited anticipation for the unveiling of the large project posters that Steph and I had designed to showcase the key results of their projects using engaging photographs and infographics. The researchers rushed to retrieve and pin up their posters at their ‘market’ stands before the guests arrived and the VIP event got started.

We really enjoyed getting to know the different researchers and IDRC staff during the training and conference, and learning about the impressive work they had all been involved with. Feedback from the researchers on the training workshop was particularly positive and touching, and reinforced the effectiveness of an interactive approach.

The value of communications training in agricultural research for development should never be underestimated. As IDRC’s Program Leader for Agriculture and Food Security, Renaud De Plaen, noted, based on the quality of the researchers’ presentations during the conference, “It shows how much good preparation, support and practice can achieve!”

“I just wanted to say thank you for helping me make my presentation so much better. The workshop was very helpful to catch the gaps and improvise. I must mention this was the best training workshop I have attended so far.” – Meena Jadhav from the salt fortification project in India.

In this short key message video, Alfred Yeboah explains the outcomes of his CIFSRF project in Ghana:

Sophie Reeve and Steph Lynch

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