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Communication guidelines for European research infrastructures: engaging with stakeholders in African countries

Gaber, Sabrina; Costa Abecasis, Rita; Stechmann, Bahne; Adams, Daniel

Other(s)
Adams, Daniel; Boettcher, Markus; Cloete, Karen; D'Alessandro, Umberto; Hamer, Michelle; Herbst, Kobus; Hillhouse, Gregory; Khumalo, Langa; Kiragga, Agnes; Kirrane, Declan; Ndisi, Mylène; Neethling, Johannes; Ramoutar-Prieschl, Rakeshnie; Sathekge, Mike; Scriba, Manfred; Sharma, Anjali; Tiplady, Adrian; Todd, Jim; Vichi, Marcello

This guideline document aims to provide European research infrastructure (EU RI) Communication Officers and other RI stakeholders with tools and recommendations to develop communication strategies to effectively engage with African stakeholders. It was designed to serve as a roadmap for developing context-appropriate communications with African stakeholders, in view of increasing RI visibility to target audiences and to make RIs more ‘findable’ on the web (and on their respective websites, with clear information regarding international collaboration or other opportunities).  

Developed as part of the Horizon 2020-funded RI-VIS project (https://ri-vis.eu), the document is based on a survey, which was filled out by 22 respondents from Belgium, Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zambia. 

The main takeaways from the survey include the desire for collaborative approaches, including, but not limited to, staff exchanges and training, and the need to consider limited funding opportunities when reaching out to potential targets. It does not seem realistic to consider African stakeholders as another (future) potential market for EU RI services, whereby services would be paid for at full market cost; alternative, more collaborative approaches, based on local context and needs, may thus be more appropriate. Some respondents indicated difficulty knowing how to reach out to EU RI stakeholders and ensure timely follow-up. This highlights the need for EU RIs to have appropriate outreach strategies in place, with pre-identified contact points and a process for responding to inquiries (in addition to seeking collaboration).  

Some of the findings are applicable to other regions: the need for cultural sensitivity, awareness of the local socio-economic/political context, attention to language (and the nuances certain terms may carry), the need for clear captivating messages, the importance of collaborative approaches (involving the non-EU participants as leaders in project design), etc. Ultimately, communication serves to support organisational objectives; here we can see that communication can also inform RIs’ international outreach strategies, providing a new lens to see and engage with the world.

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