At PRB, many elements of our work have changed over the last 30 years—from the way we communicate with colleagues to the priorities that guide our work in population and family planning. One constant, though, is our commitment to translating research to policy. We believe that demographic and health data should play an important role in shaping and improving policies and programs around the world; but we also recognize that researchers and advocates must make a concerted effort to communicate that data strategically. Toward that end, for the last 30 years we have trained thousands of advocates and researchers to overcome the gap between research and policy through policy communication training.
Now, with support from USAID through the PACE Project, PRB reached another milestone: With our new Policy Communication Toolkit, we are making our newest training materials publicly available. Throughout 2016 PRB experts revised and expanded our curriculum to reflect best practices in evidence-based policymaking. We expanded the curriculum to address skills that are increasingly crucial for modern advocates, adding modules on negotiation and accountability, communicating research through social media, and data visualization.
Previously, experts and advocates who wanted to strengthen their skills in communicating evidence using PRB’s approach needed to partner with PRB or apply for a competitive spot in one of our policy communication trainings. Now, the complete curriculum is available, allowing researchers, NGOs, donors, advocacy organizations, think tanks, and universities to use this toolkit to develop training programs according to their specific needs. Individuals can draw on the materials for self-guided learning, as well, though they are intended for use with small in-person training groups.
The first two modules of the curriculum, “From Research to Policy” and “Strategic Communication,” provide the conceptual underpinning for how to communicate data and evidence to policy audiences. The subsequent modules focus on building those communication skills for a certain platform: policy briefs; policy presentations; negotiations and accountability; social media; data visualization; and traditional media.
Depending on the needs of participants, trainers can select from among the modules and sessions included in the toolkit to build a curriculum that best suits their goals, the skill level of participants, and the time they have available. Each module contains between one and three instructional presentations that outline key concepts and skills. Additional sessions and exercises build on the instructional presentations, adding complexity and providing opportunities for participants to apply the skills individually and in small groups.
Alumni of these trainings have applied their skills by informing the policy environment for family planning and reproductive health around the world, communicating evidence to bring about policy action at all levels of the health system. Now, through the updated toolkit and public platform, we hope to expand the reach of these skills, empowering greater numbers of experts to effectively inform policy to advance well-being around the world.