Jargon busting! How do you communicate research?

October 11th, 2011

For development practitioners, words and phrases like ‘value chains’, ‘bioenergy’, ‘gender and equity’ roll off the tongue, but for a lot of us it is not always clear what is meant by them. As I discussed in my last blog post, one of the challenges of working on the PISCES project is trying to reach (and interest) wider audiences when you are dealing with jargon.

One of the themes of the PISCES project is to ‘strengthen capacity’, which is really about working with individuals or groups to build their skills and knowledge in bioenergy (energy from biomass: think wood and charcoal). Through our partners at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Dar es Salaam, Masters and PhD students research a number of technical and social issues relating to bioenergy. You might call this ‘Training tomorrow’s bioenergy leaders’.

In early August I spent a few days up in rainy Edinburgh listening to some fantastic student presentations on PISCES and PISCES-related project. Their Powerpoint presentations, with some audio attached, can be viewed here. Whilst these are excellent presentations, I am always aware that these might not be the best way to engage people who don’t know a lot about the topic.

I don’t know about you, but with an arts and social science background, Powerpoint does not scream ACCESSIBLE to me! So I also worked with a smaller number of students to create some digital slideshows and podcasts. Below is one I made with Alannah Delahunty, and her research on ‘Gender in the Charcoal Value Chain in Western Kenya’.

Take a look at the 5-minute slideshow and let me know what you think: is this a good way of introducing people to a topic? Have you learnt anything new?

For more in-depth publications from PISCES and our international research on bioenergy, visit www.pisces.or.ke

This also ties in with Practical Action’s work on market mapping.

3 responses to “Jargon busting! How do you communicate research?”

  1. Amande Says:

    PISCES project on bioenergy research is commendable, however the concept: District Environmental Action Planning (DEAP) and Local Level Scenario Planning initiatives to empower local level natural resource management is not a new concept. This approach has had its success stories and plenty of failures, it was introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with technical support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the 1990s (Murphree 2001). For real success and sustainability, the process has to be truly participatory, locally owned and grounded at local level. If these conditions are not followed in the PISCES programme implementation, the efforts and impact of the NGOs will be temporary and ends with their departure.

  2. Ewan Says:

    Amande – many thanks for your interesting comment, and we’ll be certain to look up Murphree’s report. PISCES, and Practical Action, does certainly strive to ensure that all our activities are participatory and involve all relevant stakeholders. Our aim is always to be instigators of change rather than implementers, which is why PISCES is focused on positively influencing both national and local level policy makers in Tanzania, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya, as well as involving all other relevant stakeholders. For more information on our participatory work on bioenergy markets in Kenya and Sri Lanka please check out:

  3. Amande Says:

    Thanks Ewan,
    The articles on the Policy Innovation Systems for Clean Energy Security (PISCES) seem interesting and I will take time to read it. We hope it is truly sustainable and not Malthusian as this could be copied in other rural and developing economies.

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