The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is a  small government agency with  a  big  agenda—to  assist  and  encourage  Australia’s  agricultural  scientists  to  use  their  skills  for developing countries while simultaneously working to  resolve Australia’s own agricultural problems. The Centre  itself  does  no  research:  it  commissions  collaborative  projects,  mainly  in  the  Asia-Pacific  region. Trying to ensure that the results of its projects are applied and that ACIAR is supported, both in Australia and in the developing countries where it works, involves a big communications effort.

Communication  is  ACIAR’s  lifeblood.  It  is  embodied  in  three  of  its  five  listed  functions.  This  paper describes  how  a  small  organisation  tried  coming  to  grips  with  the  problem  of  too  much  information destined  for  too  many  end-users,  in  order  to  improve  the  way  it  does  business.  Speaker  Janet  Lawrence will describe the process that was undertaken and what it achieved, especially in terms of how it helped the professional  communicators  define  their  roles  and  gave  ownership  of  communication  responsibilities  to other  staff  members.  She  will  also  relate  some  of  the  lessons  learnt  and  the  messages  in  them  for  others wishing to embark on a similar undertaking.

ACIAR recently undertook a ‘health check’ of its communication and information strategies. Members of the Centre’s Communications Program were catalysts in helping fellow staff members to evaluate how they all function as the organisation’s communicators and providers of information. The process required a quantum leap  in  thinking  for  many,  especially for  the  scientists  on  staff,  as  they  reviewed  their  activities from another perspective.

With the help of two external facilitators and  mentors the Centre’s Communications Unit developed a process that involved staff-wide consultation, where all  members were asked to  consider what they did  in communication  terms  and  what  were  the  most  important  aspects  of  information  management  and communication within and outside ACIAR.

Participants  in  the  process  endeavoured  to  clarify  the  issues  of  key  concern  and  determine  the stakeholders with whom it was crucial we communicate. They also sought to identify what outcomes were desired in  the  next  five  years  and  define  the  indicators of  success  in  attaining them.  Finally,  they  tried  to identify  the  strategies  that  would  ensure  those  outcomes  were  achieved  and  to  determine  who  was responsible  for  undertaking  each  strategy.  The  end  product  was  an  information  management  and communication  plan  for  the  Centre,  which  clarified  the  roles  of  everybody  at  ACIAR  involved  in communication.
 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Corporate communication
Making the impact worth the effort

Janet Lawrence   Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is a  small government agency with  a  big  agenda—to  assist  and  encourage  Australia’s  agricultural  scientists  to  use  their  skills  for developing countries while simultaneously working to  resolve Australia’s own agricultural problems. The Centre  itself  does  no  research:  it  commissions  collaborative  projects,  mainly  in  the  Asia-Pacific  region. Trying to ensure that the results of its projects are applied and that ACIAR is supported, both in Australia and in the developing countries where it works, involves a big communications effort.

Communication  is  ACIAR’s  lifeblood.  It  is  embodied  in  three  of  its  five  listed  functions.  This  paper describes  how  a  small  organisation  tried  coming  to  grips  with  the  problem  of  too  much  information destined  for  too  many  end-users,  in  order  to  improve  the  way  it  does  business.  Speaker  Janet  Lawrence will describe the process that was undertaken and what it achieved, especially in terms of how it helped the professional  communicators  define  their  roles  and  gave  ownership  of  communication  responsibilities  to other  staff  members.  She  will  also  relate  some  of  the  lessons  learnt  and  the  messages  in  them  for  others wishing to embark on a similar undertaking.

ACIAR recently undertook a ‘health check’ of its communication and information strategies. Members of the Centre’s Communications Program were catalysts in helping fellow staff members to evaluate how they all function as the organisation’s communicators and providers of information. The process required a quantum leap  in  thinking  for  many,  especially for  the  scientists  on  staff,  as  they  reviewed  their  activities from another perspective.

With the help of two external facilitators and  mentors the Centre’s Communications Unit developed a process that involved staff-wide consultation, where all  members were asked to  consider what they did  in communication  terms  and  what  were  the  most  important  aspects  of  information  management  and communication within and outside ACIAR.

Participants  in  the  process  endeavoured  to  clarify  the  issues  of  key  concern  and  determine  the stakeholders with whom it was crucial we communicate. They also sought to identify what outcomes were desired in  the  next  five  years  and  define  the  indicators of  success  in  attaining them.  Finally,  they  tried  to identify  the  strategies  that  would  ensure  those  outcomes  were  achieved  and  to  determine  who  was responsible  for  undertaking  each  strategy.  The  end  product  was  an  information  management  and communication  plan  for  the  Centre,  which  clarified  the  roles  of  everybody  at  ACIAR  involved  in communication.
 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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