A communications strategy is a plan of action to optimise the flow and use of information among your programme’s key stakeholders with the aim of promoting transparency, accountability and adaptability.
The type of information circulated and used is usually different depending on the target audience. Communication strategies consider knowledge to be explicit (it can be codified) and tacit (based on skills and experience as well as social norms and traditions). Each type of knowledge requires different tools and processes for its production, circulation and adoption or use.
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Different audiences: market actors, donors and your team
Think strategically about how you present yourself to various market actors, so you don’t become part of a market system. With farmers, for example, it is important not to engage directly as a ‘development’ actor. Coming between the target group and market players who serve them can danger relationships and reduce your chances of promoting sustainable change.
Alternatively, it is fine to be clear about your goals and objectives with your business partners. They know you are coming from a donor-funded programme, but be clear that your partnership with them represents a means rather than an end and that they should expect to make improvements to their own way of operating as a foundation for continued support. This requires being able to 'speak their language':
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Donors and the development community
Strong, trust-based relationships between the programme, your home/regional office and the donor are important. Some organisations have created dedicated technical support staff positions or departments, which help programme staff work through implementation challenges. Sometimes this takes the form of publishing resources, or having technical support staff available to deploy on projects for one or two months to help with a particular area. These departments, or other regional/home office managers, also see returns from organising frequent national, regional, or global events and retreats, with deliberate spaces created for sharing ideas and experiences.
Outside of regional or global fora for sharing and learning, creating a flexible, low-maintenance mechanism for staff learning and sharing at the project level often pays dividends. Sometimes, this is as simple as a deliberate structuring of weekly team meetings focused on what is being learned.
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