IFPRI Collaborates Journalists on Good Governance …strengthens media reportage on Agricultural issues


IFPRI Collaborates Journalists on Good Governance

…strengthens media reportage on Agricultural issues

As part of its Media engagements in its developmental stride the International Food policy Research Institute (IFPRI) under the project, ‘Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project recently organized a workshop to enhance journalists on some nitty-gritty of governance.

The Workshop, titled, “Policy Communications Master Class for Journalists’ had journalists from different states converging at Corrinthia Villa Hotel, Abuja.

The Communications Specialist, Nigeria Strategy Support Program International Food policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Elizabeth Douglas  said it has become necessary that they collaborate with the media as they  are vital instrument to driving their projects.

In her paper presentation Titled, “How to Write a Policy Brief”, she had opened up on what a good policy brief looks like, the need for a policy brief and targeted audience for which the policy brief is meant.

Elizabeth in her explanation had defined a Policy Brief to be, ‘a Public Document used by any actor interested in influencing policy’.  Such as,

Non-governmental organizations

Think tanks and research institutes (like IFPRI)

Charities and Civil Society Organizations

Private Sector Organizations

“A Policy Brief is a concise summary of a particular issue, the policy option to deal with it, and some recommendations on the best option.

It is primarily targeted at government policymakers and others who are interested in formulating or influencing policy”.

Explaining further, she categorized it into two. The Persuasive Policy Briefs, and the Objective Policy Briefs.

The Persuasive policy Briefs aims to persuade that a particular policy action is the best option while the

Objective Policy Briefs aims to advice on the various policy options for a particular issue.

These could be powerful tools for advocacy and/or shaping policy debate.

The audience she pointed out is made up primarily of policy makers and those who influence the policymaking process. These policy makers are usually non-specialists but experts in policy making process and are usually under pressure from various groups.

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Policy brief or note therefore needs to be concise and written in a simplified language so that even market women can read it since it is a public document and the general public are part of the audience.

A good policy brief she emphasized should provide an overview for busy readers not more than three sentences about one’s findings and research; it should be something enticing for reader to wanting to read further.

The introduction should be able to tell the reader what the issue is and explains the significance and urgency of the issue in not more than two paragraphs as policy briefs are based on evidence. It provides summary of facts and usually used by researchers. Since they are action oriented and usually tied to a situation, it is not an opinion based. She said.

“With a policy brief, you don’t have the luxury of space like that of report. Pick the ones that are important”.

Elizabeth speaking on how to title briefs observed that researchers use a lot of nouns, she advised that they ‘title’ their documents with punching words; that which is similar to that of the media in order to carry weight.

The brief should make use of visual contents to drive home points. It should also include the conduct of interview to confirm what maybe a policy maker’s earlier projection was, drawing from facts and evidence so as to put things in realistic terms. She emphasized.

“You are drawing from facts and evidence. Put things in realistic terms. It is evidence based. You are not writing your opinion. You are writing based on facts. Make sure your ideas are strong. Make your argument persuasive. At the end of policy brief, (or policy note), we need to make list of sources. It is important. She added.

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The implication or recommendation is what would happen if certain things are not put in place. She continued.

“For example, if farmers do not get their fertilizers on time, it might lead to reduction of farm produce consequently which might lead to hunger’.

This is something which stems from facts and evident and not opinion. Thus, policy briefs if well-structured can be a powerful tool for advocacy and can be used to shape options thereby shaping the narrative.

Different organizations   have their styles of writing policy briefs. She ended.

A Social Media Expert Bisola Oyediran has stressed the need for Policy Makers and Researchers to use the Online Platforms in reaching their target audience as technology has made it easy for sharing of information.

Many researchers she observed are of the believe that ’social media is all about sharing of photos with family members and friends. It goes beyond that. She said

This observation was made while presenting her paper Titled, ‘Using Online Platforms to Communicate Policy-Relevant Research’.

Actively participating in online platforms she emphasized allows policy makers to share vital information as well as researchers to disseminate research findings quickly and effectively to a wide range of audiences. It also helps in raising their profile and that of their research groups or institutions.

Examples of online platforms that could be of advantage are online forum/discussion, communities, blogs and social networks such as Facebook, You Tube,  Multi-Person/group communication or collaboration platforms such as Twitter.

Bisola described online platforms as invaluable tools for professional networking which could be within specific subjects’ fields or across different disciplines and professions.

“Several advantages have been highlighted on using social media as a means of reaching a researcher’s target audience such as, the researcher’s community, the general public and the ‘press’.

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She however did not dispute the fact that while some people use the platform to display their intelligence, others use it to display their stupidity. That notwithstanding, lots of benefits she maintained awaits one especially now that technology is by our doorsteps.

“Don’t allow anyone to put you down. You need to know which platform works for you as a researcher.

“Identify a realistic goal and start small. That might mean starting with sharing research results on Facebook where nearly two-third of its user gets news.

“Start by allocating an hour to setting up a Twitter account, identifying your Twitter brand (key research topics and tweets) and find some relevant individuals and organizations to follow.

Identify specific journalists or editors on Twitter who you want to reach with your research”.

The online expert explained that sharing policy messages from research on social media can expand the reach of research findings and key messages.

It can also create an opportunity for researchers to build media relationships without starting ‘cold’.

Apart from it providing practice in thinking through how to concisely communicate policy messages from their research, it also increases buzz about an article and potentially increases citations for researchers.

As a result of its uniqueness to influencing social behavior it is important therefore that messages on social media be tailored to meet the expectations of different segments of audiences. She stressed.

While considering the aforementioned benefits and many others attached to the use of social media, Bisola urged researchers to as a matter of necessity cultivate the habit of disseminating their research work through the Online Platforms.

At the end of the workshop, the session broke into groups to fan tom way forward on issues discussed.