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This is a brief note on the presentation of Charlotte Lapsnansky during the 4th Knowledge Sharing Series on “Leadership and Communication Challenges for Climate Change Aspects of Development Projects” on 21 June 2016.  Watch the full video below.  To know more about the event, click here. >>

Summary

Project communication contributes to achieving targets for social development and can mitigate risks arising from lack of stakeholder buy in, says Charlotte Lapsansky, ADB’s Development Communication Specialist.

Key Points

Several cases illustrate the impact of communications in achieving social development.  

  • Because of communication strategies, a road project in Cambodia resulted in the employment of 32% of unskilled women and a change in the contractor’s views of women as competent and valuable crew members.  
  • A project in the People’s Republic of China that promotes the use of energy efficient appliances through proper labelling has resulted in consumers’ seriousness in considering the labels when buying appliances.  
  • Meanwhile, a river basin management project in Nepal experienced a three-year delay and cancellation of integral components worth $18 million due to the lack of communication initiatives during project conception and before project implementation especially as the project involved diverse communities with divergent interests.

Project communications comprise several requirements, and a communications strategy is just one of them.  In ADB, its Public Communications Policy aims to address project issues by requiring a communications strategy detailing at minimum the (i) type of information to be made public, (ii) mechanisms for public notice, and (iii) persons/units responsible for implementing the strategy.

Project communications is critical in every project cycle stage in ADB.

  1. In the concept and design stage, communication assessments (stakeholders, messages, channels) are used to make strategic decisions and do outreach activities.  
  2. In the approval stage, ADB requires a strategy to be included in loan documents in lining up resources and structures for delivery.  
  3. In the implementation stage, project teams monitor the delivery of strategy, while ADB missions may review progress.

The following are some elements included in the communication strategy:

(a) Audiences

Some tools in mapping stakeholders include the continuum of movability (Orren 2001) and power-interest matrix, both shown below:

Figure 1: Orren's Continuum of Movability

Figure 2: Power-Interest Matrix

(b) Current and Desired Behavior

The stakeholders’ desired behavior can be captured in one sentence: “We want (stakeholder) to (do something).”  This can then be compared with their current behavior (i.e., unaware; aware, concerned, knowledgeable; motivated to change; tries new behavior; or sustains new behavior).

(c) Messages

Pick the appropriate type of message and information sharing needs (i.e., “informative messages” to fill information gaps, “persuasive messages” to motivate and shift attitudes and behaviors, and “listening” to convey you are hearing their opinions).

(d) Channels

Do not just throw information into the void.  Know what kinds of channels stakeholders, including minority groups, regularly access and trust. 

Conclusion

Lapsansky summarized her discussion with the following takeaways:

  • Communication is an upfront investment in project effectiveness;
  • Communication should support dialogue and participation;
  • Start communication early in the project cycle;
  • Engage with communication professionals to plan, design and implement strategies; and
  • Determine the impact of the channel used on behavior.

About the Speaker

Charlotte Lapsansky is a Development Communication Specialist at the ADB’s Department of External Relations.  She provides technical guidance to project teams on behavior change communication and development communication for ADB-financed projects.  She has a PhD in Communication from the University of Southern California and has worked with several nongovernment organizations and research projects on human rights and development.

4th Knowledge Sharing Series: Leadership & Comm Challenges for Climate Change Development Projects