News: Communicating and networking takes off, May 2014

Presentation, writing, interview and social media skills were part of the program at the Master class on communicating with stakeholders, held in Nadi, Fiji from 25-31 May 2014.

Facilitator Toss Gascoigne leads discussion with the stakeholder panel of Kyle Stice, Manager of the Pacific Island Farmer' Organisation Network; Maria Linibi, President of the PNG Women in Agriculture Foundation and Denis Blight from the Crawford Fund

Facilitator Toss Gascoigne leads discussion with the stakeholder panel of Kyle Stice, Manager of the Pacific Island Farmer’ Organisation Network; Maria Linibi, President of the PNG Women in Agriculture Foundation and Denis Blight from the Crawford Fund

Getting hands on creating graphics for presentation

Getting hands on creating graphics for presentation

“I don’t think we can over-emphasise the need for communication… when it comes to an area like agricultural research, which is so highly technical, but has a huge bearing on the prosperity of so many people both on farms and throughout the value-chain,” said Karinda D’Aloisio, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Fiji during the certificate presentation ceremony at the conclusion of the class. “Even the most excellent research will not put more cash in a farmer’s pocket if it’s isolated from the market, policy and trade environment.”

Co-hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the training involved 18 agricultural scientists and researchers from international and national research institutes, NGOs, the private sector and government departments going through their paces with facilitators Tom Dixon and Toss Gascoigne from Econnect Communication.

This was our third communication master class, with the former ones involving researchers from Africa in 2013 and Asia in late 2011.

Here’s what the participants in the previous classes in Africa had to say about their training:

The Fund supported 14 of the 18 participants in Fiji, most of whom were working on projects in collaboration with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and other Australian and in-country research organisations.

Participants get the experience of mock and real interviews

Participants get the experience of mock and real interviews

“It’s great to have scientists from across a range of various agricultural industries and countries including Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, PNG, Timor Leste, Samoa. In addition to the important communication skills they gain, the network (participant biographies) they build will also help them into the future,” said Cathy Reade, the Fund’s Director of Public Affairs and Communication, who managed the Master Class.

“There is a growing appreciation in agricultural research institutions in Australia and partner countries alike of the need to confirm the efficacy of public investment in agricultural science.  Our master class aims to help agricultural scientists tell the stories of their work and its impact to a broad range of non-scientific audiences in funding agencies, other interested stakeholders such as farmers and extension agencies and to the general public through the media.”

Cathy Reade helps participants get connected to Twitter

Cathy Reade helps participants get connected to Twitter

While all participants did ‘mock’ TV, radio and print interviews with Pacific based journalists, some also did ‘real’ interviews for Australian radio (see “media coverage” below).

“Many of the participants are now on Twitter for the first time and we will enjoy hearing more of their work in the future,” said Cathy. The hashtag for the training is #CFMC14.

Facilitators Toss Gascoigne and Tom Dixon, from Econnect Communication

Facilitators Toss Gascoigne and Tom Dixon, from Econnect Communication

Participants were surveyed at the end of the week’s training and three months later to evaluate the impact of the training. Feedback shows they are effectively putting their new knowledge into practice.

The communication plan and action plan designed during the Master Class workshop has secured my unit $170, 000 in funding… I managed to convince our senior staff and donor using the guide given to us on writing reports.” – Sunia Marayawa

Exactly two weeks after the Communicating Science Workshop, using the skills learned, I made my presentation on the “Vegetable Value chain in Central Province for Port Moresby Markets” in the Pacific Value Chain Workshop. Many participants of the workshop (the audience) commented that my presentation was ‘the best’. It was my first time to get a comment like that for my power point presentation.” – Clifton D Gwabu

Read more feedback from the Master Class participants here.

“It’s also good to hear from participants that some of them plan to use the experience and great handouts to do their own training when they return to work,” said Cathy.

Future master classes are being planned. If you’re an agricultural scientist with an interest in a future master class to improve your personal and institutional communication skills, please email Cathy Reade.

Related material

Media coverage