Literature is littered with stories on the persisting gap between the abundant evidence and uptake level outside the confines of producers and their immediate contemporaries, researchers and funders.
In my immediate past job, I was heading Botswana's Information, Education and Communication (IEC) unit of the National Council on Population and Development (NCPD) in the Ministry of Finance. Our core mandate was advocacy for the National Population Policy among the implementing ministries and departments. During this time, I was also Botswana's focal person for Agenda 2063. My job was to incite buy-in for the Africa Framework and mobilise institutional support so the Botswana – Africa Agenda could formulate and gain momentum like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
My work with the NCPD and Agenda206 involved communicating research findings to policymakers, economic planners and the private sector. One such was advocacy for the buy-in of the Demographic Dividend study findings and its mainstreaming into the development processes. Botswana is currently leading in the Demographic Dividend agenda – and I want to show we can trace this success to communication and advocacy. Communicators can meet non-technical people at their level and make them appreciate, in simple everyday language, the centrality of evidence in their work.
In this personal blog, I intended to argue, using lived experience, that we need to put communication at the core of our evidence production to reduce the gap between the evidence we produce and its broader buy-in. Communication experts need to relocate from the margins to a place where they can engage with researchers and producers of evidence.
In several institutions, communication's role primarily supports the institutions' core mandate. In the context of research institutions, communication experts assist researchers in publicising, packaging and launching their projects. – and not necessarily facilitate them to communicate their findings in a digestible and less frightening manner. Can this be where we need to shift towards?
Acknowledgements: The author(s) is solely responsible for the content of this article, including all errors or omissions; acknowledgements do not imply endorsement of the content. The author is grateful to Siziwe Ngcwabe, the content committee and the Africa Evidence Network team for their guidance in the preparation and finalisation of this article as well as their editorial support.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in published articles, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of the Africa Evidence Network, its secretariat, advisory or reference groups, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties. We hope you enjoyed this blog teaser. Be sure to watch our newsletter for when the full blog post is published after Evidence 2023.