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IDEA Project (USAID)

At the International Conference on Family Planning, held in Dakar, Senegal, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2011, PRB was involved in a range of activities, several of which are highlighted here.

Pre-conference Youth Workshop

Approximately 70 youth participants took part in a full-day pre-conference workshop on communicating adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights and health to policy audiences. Participants learned about the policy communication process and how to develop an effective strategy to communicate with policymakers. The workshop focused on topics selected by participants in an online pre-conference survey and included youth friendly services, increasing media coverage of youth issues, and supporting youth as leaders in development. Participants broke into groups by topic to create a strategy. Each group identified communications objectives and target audiences, developed key messages, and identified channels of communication to reach their audiences. Participants also shared successful experiences and challenges they encountered in trying to communicate with decisionmakers or the media.

The youth participants also took part in skills-building sessions to improve their capacity to communicate effectively with decisionmakers, including “Better Blogging,” how to write an effective blog and increase blog traffic; “Speaking to Policy Audiences,” how to clearly and concisely get your point across in 60 seconds; and “Build a Better PowerPoint,” how to create more engaging, informative, and persuasive presentations to help your cause. Many participants commented that the sessions on how to construct an effective PowerPoint and how to deliver a message in 60 seconds were extremely useful skills to use during the conference.

An ENGAGE Multimedia Presentation

“Sénégal en Marche” (“Senegal on the Move”)—an ENGAGE multimedia presentation developed for the conference—was shown for the first time, as the final presentation of the Conference’s Opening Plenary. The Senegal Task Force that was organized by PRB to develop the presentation was very pleased with the final product, and felt that it captured the main issues and messages that they had identified. They were also excited by the innovative format and described the presentation as moving and engaging. There is great enthusiasm for rolling out the presentation at a national level and ensuring a wider audience. Task force members suggested opportunities (such as airing the presentation on national TV with an accompanying panel discussion) and are eager to identify more opportunities to reach decisionmakers. An additional task force meeting will finalize an official dissemination plan.

Women’s Edition and Journalists From East and West Africa

In Senegal, PRB sponsored nearly three dozen journalists from 24 countries to cover the family planning conference. These included 12 journalists from Africa and Asia who are currently participating in Women’s Edition, 11 reporters from East and West Africa, and 10 who are based in Dakar. During the conference, the PRB media team helped the journalists line up interviews, write their stories, and develop story ideas to pursue in their home countries after the conference.

Before the conference, the Women’s Edition journalists took an overnight trip to visit two villages that have benefited from Tostan’s work on reproductive health, including female genital cutting and family planning. This two-day trip gave the journalists an opportunity to learn about programs in the field and better understand community-based approaches to family planning and reproductive health. Tostan’s executive director, Molly Melching, accompanied the group and hosted them at the Tostan Thies Regional Training Center, where she explained the NGO’s community-led and rights-based approach to development. A Filipino newspaper columnist later wrote that the visit was “life-changing.”

PRB had different expectations for the various groups of journalists, and all met those expectations. The East and West African and Dakar-based journalists focused on daily coverage of the conference, while also bringing home material for future stories. Some of the Women’s Edition journalists also filed “on deadline” at the conference, but their broader purpose was to develop in-depth story ideas to pursue in their own countries.

Training NGOs to Work With the Media

PRB organized and co-facilitated the auxiliary session “Training NGOs to Work with the Media,” a six-hour session designed for communication staff from NGOs who want to gain basic skills needed to work with the media. Participants learned how to approach the media with greater confidence and improve their media coverage. They learned how to write a news release, develop messages about their organization’s work for the media, address questions from journalists during a news conference, and respond to inaccuracies and errors in stories. Ten participants from eight countries attended the workshop.

Overall, participants provided very positive feedback. The majority found the practice sessions on writing news releases and conducting interviews, as well as the open discussion, very helpful. The participants plan on using what they learned in this session to repackage their current messages about their work into a clear and cohesive format that can be shared easily with the media via press kits, news releases, or during news conferences. Suggestions for improving the workshop included additional time for practicing, critiquing, and improving practical skills, as well as more time for group work and an additional session that covers working with social media.

Panel Session on Innovative Advocacy Tools

PRB took part in the panel session “What’s in Your Toolbox? State-of-the-Art Planning and Advocacy Tools for Family Planning.” The panel introduced three innovative tools that facilitate the use of widely available data for family planning advocacy and program planning. It also emphasized the importance of using evidence-based advocacy tools to share critical data and information and mobilize support for family planning among committed individuals. PRB shared the ENGAGE presentation “Family Planning: Pathway to Poverty Reduction” with panel session participants, explaining the purpose of ENGAGE presentations and the process for creating a presentation, and demonstrating excerpts of the presentation to the audience. There were about 65 individuals in the audience; following the presentation, approximately 20 individuals asked questions about the ENGAGE presentation and opportunities to create one in their respective countries.

Technical Support to Malawi’s Deputy Minister of Finance and Development Planning

PRB provided technical assistance to Malawi’s delegation for the high-level ministerial meeting focusing on “Realizing the Demographic Dividend to Accelerate Economic Growth.” PRB worked with the Deputy Minister of Finance and Development to conceptualize and prepare his presentation “The Road to Success: Malawi’s Investment in RH/FP.” The meeting’s objective was to enable ministers of finance, health, and other sectors, as well as other leaders, to realize the demographic dividend for their countries’ economic growth and development that results from a change in their nation’s population age structure. The presentation was well received and was showcased in the Aspen Institute’s Ministerial Leadership Initiative blog.

Other IDEA Activities

16 Days of Activism

To commemorate the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (Nov. 25 to Dec. 10), the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG), PAHO, and USAID held an event entitled “Data on Gender-Based Violence: What’s New and What’s Not” on Dec. 6, 2011. The event drew more than 100 participants and featured four presentations from leading voices in the field of combating gender-based violence (GBV) focusing on the importance of ethical, comprehensive, and accurate data. The presentations, as well as the webcast of the event, are available on the IGWG website ( Following the presentations, about 45 participants attended a hands-on, small-group training on “Practical Skills Building in Addressing Ethical Considerations in GBV Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation.”

PRB also brought attention to the 16 Days through its website, featuring an overview of the annual campaign, links to related PRB materials, and a new web article, “Gender-Based Violence Against the Transgender Community Is Underreported.” At the same time, Twitter was used to publicize data and information about GBV. A new tweet was posted every day during the period, alerting followers to items such as new survey data from Tanzania, the relationship between child marriage and GBV, and spousal violence in Egypt.

Communicating About HIV to Policymakers

With technical assistance from PRB, the National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development (NCAPD) hosted a two-week workshop, “Communicating HIV Information and Effective Interventions to Policymakers,” at the Kenya Institute of Administration training facility. The workshop, held in November, was attended by 20 participants from local Kenyan health organizations and one staff member from Partners in Population and Development’s African Regional Office in Uganda.

The goal of the workshop was to increase the use of results and information on effective interventions to improve policies and programs in Kenya. During the two weeks, participants examined the current HIV trends and emerging challenges in Kenya, reviewed current priorities and program approaches, explored how results and information can influence policies, and identified key results and their policy implications. Participants found the workshop helpful in understanding and practicing how to bridge the gap between program and research results and policy change.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Media Workshop

In Nairobi, PRB and MEASURE DHS collaborated on an intensive three-day “Making Numbers Count” workshop for journalists from seven countries (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia). The purpose was to teach journalists what the numbers in Demographic and Health Surveys and other reports mean, how they can find story ideas within this data, and how they can use the data to strengthen their stories. The journalists learned how to read data tables, interpret the data, perform basic math functions, and translate data into words that provide useful information. The training received very positive evaluations and requests from participants and others who had heard about the activity for more workshops to allay the general fear of numbers that many journalists share. About 100 journalists applied for the 15 spots in the workshop.


Preparations are underway for the Sixth Annual PopPov Research Conference, which will be held in Accra, Ghana, from Jan. 18 to 21, 2012. PRB and co-host, the University of Ghana, are continuing to collaborate with the PopPov steering committee on the scientific program, conference agenda, and other meeting logistics. The preliminary conference agenda as well as several pre-conference workshop materials are posted on the PopPov website ( In November, PRB staff participated in a PopPov panel session at the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal. At the panel session, a video about PopPov was launched, highlighting its objectives and accomplishments; the video is on the PopPov website (

PRB is drafting two key policy briefs as part of the PopPov dissemination strategy. The first brief provides an overview of the relationship between reproductive health and economic development, drawing upon a wide range of research across disciplines. The second brief highlights findings from recent studies on early childbearing in South Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Multimedia Presentation on Nutrition Featured at Congressional Briefing

In December, segments of PRB’s multimedia presentation entitled “Nutrition on the Rise” were featured at a U.S. congressional briefing sponsored by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). The presentation was produced under the RENEW Project (Reenergizing Nutrition—Expanding Worldwide), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The briefing brought together GAIN, USAID, the 1,000 Days Hub, and Edesia to educate congressional staff on the fundamental nature of nutrition, particularly in the thousand-day window, key interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition, and new efforts to raise public awareness about the issue. Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. David Cicilline (Rhode Island) presided over the standing-room-only event. Reaction to the presentation was very positive, with many audience members approaching the speaker (Lucy Sullivan, director of the 1,000 Days initiative) with congratulations and requests for copies. A representative of the World Food Program said “it was such a clear and effective way to communicate the impacts of poor nutrition during that critical period (the 1,000 days).” The presentation, which was created with input from many partners and colleagues from different sectors of the nutrition field, includes the pioneering Trendalyzer (bubble) graphics and innovative animations that depict the importance of adequate nutrition for mothers and children in the one-thousand-day window of opportunity from pregnancy to 2 years of age.

Reducing Malnutrition: Reaching Out to Business Leaders

In November, PRB presented “Nutrition on the Rise” at a Business Alliance Forum in Vienna, Austria. The meeting, sponsored by GAIN, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was attended by an estimated 80 business representatives, nutrition experts, and donors from around the globe. GAIN president, Marc Van Ameringen, requested PRB to present it as a keynote opening to the meeting because, he said, “the presentation gives the kind of nutrition orientation in an engaging way that business leaders need.” Objectives of the meeting included finding long-term solutions to malnutrition, especially by leveraging markets to increase access to the nutrition people need, particularly women and children in the critical first one-thousand days. The presentation was well received, with references to the presentation occurring during the opening discussion session. Selected business groups also requested copies for educating their staff and others.

Ford Foundation/Cairo

Workshop in Egypt

PRB’s Middle East and North Africa program, in collaboration with the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine of Assiut University in Egypt, conducted a policy communication workshop in Hurghada, Egypt, from Oct. 1-7. Eleven researchers and program managers working in the area of youth sexual and reproductive health participated in the workshop—10 from Egypt and 1 from Sudan. In an active and participatory setting, participants explored research-to-policy gaps, learned about the policy process and barriers to the effective use of research, identified the policy implications of their own research, and prepared a policy-oriented presentation. The workshop aimed to enhance participants’ use of data and information on effective interventions to improve policies and programs. Sessions helped participants communicate their findings to a mock policy audience and understand how research can influence the policy process. The workshop was funded by the Ford Foundation office in Cairo and the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Conference on Youth

PRB’s program director for the MENA region took part in a panel session at the “Youth and Adolescents’ Health Conference” that was organized by the Egyptian Family Health Society and held Dec. 11-12 in Cairo. In collaboration with the Population Council, PRB produced a bilingual (English and Arabic) data sheet on Egyptian youth for release at the conference, using the data from the Population Council’s 2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt. Copies of this data sheet and the Arabic version of PRB’s Facts of Life: Youth Sexuality and Reproductive Health in the Middle East and North Africa were distributed at the conference. Both publications were produced with funding from the Ford Foundation office in Cairo. 

Health Policy Project (USAID)

African Researchers Communicate Evidence-based Messages

In December, the Union of African Population Studies (UAPS) held its 6th annual meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. As part of its involvement in the USAID-supported Health Policy Project, PRB staff led two training sessions on policy communication—one session for French-speaking participants and the other in English. The sessions focused on understanding the different types of barriers between researchers and policymakers, and gave participants the opportunity to develop evidence-based messages, identify implications and recommendations, and deliver 60-second speeches with experts playing the role of minister of health. The 45 participants enjoyed the half-day sessions and look forward to applying these skills with their own research.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Workshop for Child Advocates

In October and November, PRB brought together 13 representatives from Latin America whose organizations work on evidence-based advocacy for children’s rights and well-being. The group spent four days in Washington, D.C., and learned how to select indicators for advocacy, use data to create advocacy messages, and make effective presentations. The country representatives also met with the Inter-American Development Bank to explore opportunities for future collaboration.