There is increasing pressure for development organisations and research programmes to show what impact they are having in the real world.
The pressure comes from donors, private funders, the aid transparancy movement and - tentatively - from those involved in the work itself. Inevitably, some kinds of activities bring about more visible changes in the real world - think about humanitarian programmes, schools-building initiatives etc. which can point to the results of their efforts, and even take pictures of them! Tracking and tracing the results of efforts in the world of information, knowledge, networking and advocacy is a much more difficult task. Problems of visibility, attribution, and moving targets plague the sector.
Here at CommsConsult we are fascinated by the challenges of monitoring and evaluating communication and policy influence work. We work with clients to find the most practical methods and techniques to show the value of their communication and outreach activities. We learn something from every single piece of work we do about the relevance of current M+E practices, and use this to improve our approach the next time we do an evaluation or a review.
It is in all of our interests to 'get better' at showing the value of spending money on communication in the development sector. As aid budgets are squeezed, and funding is increasingly directed at initiatives that 'show returns early', there is a massive risk that engagement, communication, outreach and research-uptake initiatives will be axed by the skeptics who hold the purse-strings. This, we believe, is dangerous for development: communication is all about sharing out the knowledge, so that development initiatives are better informed by the opinions and practices of the people who 'live the poverty' (rather than 'do' poverty-alleviation as their day-jobs) and the experiences and learning of other initiatives.
CommsConsult has a track record of helping researchers and their institutions to communicate more effectively, and to evaluating the results of research-policy activities. We're always happy to talk to others who are doing work in this area or, who want to work with us, or want us to help them in their work. Please do get in touch!