Our current project in Eastern Africa aims to support reporting of research on tax and governance issues. In Kenya and Uganda, Relay implemented a package of activities to strengthen relationships between media, research and other key actors. The goal was to build practical research communication skills and create spaces for networking and dialogue.
The programme used Relay’s step-by-step approach, building on previous achievements and using learning from each activity to inform the next. The approach included a multi-stakeholder forum, training workshops, and a fellowship programme for journalists. A final roundtable event will be held to share experience and results with a wider group of journalist, researchers, and civil society actors, and contribute to a wider debate
Based on learning and reflection from the project team in Eastern Africa and feedback from beneficiaries, here are some practical lessons and recommendations that may be useful for others who want to encourage reporting research on a variety of critical development issues:
- Stakeholder dialogue. Create sustainable multi-stakeholder platforms to promote ongoing learning and interaction between journalists and researchers, and other influential actors such as civil society representatives and policymakers. Engaging them early will allow to map their needs, interests and relationships, and to identify gaps in the current debate on various development issues.
- Engage media houses and editors. Developing relationships with individual editors will keep them interested, engaged and keen to put forward their top journalists for the fellowship programme. You may also try to target newspapers that reach a wide public audience and policymakers to ensure that your development stories get on the mainstream agenda!
- Field visits and practical training. Create an opportunity for journalists and researchers to work together on a practical assignment. Field trips are also a perfect opportunity to give voice to the people most affected by the issue and understand how it relates to their lives. Follow up on the field visits by organising practical sessions, such as interviewing, press conferences and writing press releases. These will enable the issue to reach wider audiences.
- Participatory exercises. Monitoring and evaluation can be more than reporting and valued by project partners! Use participatory monitoring and evaluation tools, such as progress markers and spectrum lines, to engage participants, explore their relationships and different roles and identify ways to network and collaborate better. Creating simple assessment tools for facilitators can allow for immediate group analysis and reflection.
- Media scan and content assessment. Start your project with a media scan and content assessment to map the media landscape and identify existing debates and gaps in research reporting on development issues. Media scanning will also help to inform your choices in project design, such as which journalists to contact. At a later stage, these useful tools will facilitate measuring change in quality of reporting through the interventions of the project.
- Network building. Create opportunities for participants to take forward their own networks, like East Africa Tax and Governance Network (EATGN), where different stakeholders can inform a wider debate on critical development issues.
More recommendations and first-hand insights from the projects will soon appear on the Relay website, so watch this space!