A Strategy for CIAT’s Internal Communications
The need to improve internal communications at CIAT has received increasing attention over the last 2 years. There is greater awareness now that the Center’s special identity – including its extensive research portfolio, presence on three continents, and multiculturalism – represents a daily communications challenge, which affects the way we work in teams, analyze results, and generate knowledge.
“CIAT requires a systemic solution that goes beyond improving instruments and media,” said management consultant Diego Naranjo, of PENTA Communications, Inc. who helped us to define the building block of our new strategy in a one-day retreat. He emphasized that: Organizational communication is much more than media and tools. An organizational culture in which there is communication is much more powerful and sustainable. Organizational and individual learning accelerates with internal communication. Aligning decisions towards organizational strategy requires internal communication.
Several recent initiatives have helped CIAT better define strengths and weaknesses with respect to its organizational culture, corporate services, and staff perceptions about internal communication. Moreover, CIAT has devised a new strategy, which calls for changes in our organizational culture aimed at strengthening internal and external collaboration. These developments have brought to light various issues, which this strategy for internal communications aims to address.
We developed a theory of change and its expected results.
1.Research and administrative staff share the organization’s values. While administrative staff members strive to provide high-quality services that optimize researchers’ time, researchers understand administrative procedures and their limitations. Staff members reflect CIAT’s values in their attitudes, decisions, and actions, and the Management Team promotes these values by example.
2.Researchers integrate between different research disciplines and areas. Integrated research projects are developed, which encompass different research areas (crops, soils, and policies) and cross-cutting themes (e.g., gender, capacity strengthening, knowledge management, and monitoring and evaluation). The teams formed to carry out these projects bring together diverse talents, represent different regions and research areas, and work efficiently through bottom-up communication and continuous cycles of learning.
3. The communication and knowledge management team optimizes communication channels. These are interactive and carefully tailored to different audiences, with the aim of reaching all staff in a timely manner. Improved information flow enables all CIAT employees to gain a better understanding of what the Center does and what is happening in our institutional environment. Our communications initiatives and media involve all CIAT staff in using multiple media to share research achievements and products with external audiences.
4. All CIAT personnel understand the eco-efficiency principle and know how to apply it in their work.
5. Collaborative networks are inclusive. Internal collaborative networks are more decentralized, and individuals who are the focus of many network connections actively encourage others to construct new ties that promote dialogue. The Center encourages initiatives to strengthen collaborative networks, leading to new opportunities for integration between regions, programs, and disciplines. Staff members take part in periodic diagnoses of CIAT’s collaborative networks.
6. The communications and knowledge management team focuses its activities strongly on public awareness and donor relations, the CIAT regions, and organizational change. The team promotes two-way, interactive internal communications aimed at strengthening donor relations, achieving better integration between CIAT regions, and fostering organizational change. It works closely with all areas, especially Human Resources Management, to plan and implement interventions that contribute to these ends.
To achieve the expected results, the communications and knowledge management team will work to scale out innovative practices along three strategic axes:
- Creating new spaces for dialogue
- Fostering team work and learning in teams
- Communicating to create among all staff a better understanding of key developments in CIAT’s work and institutional environment.
The communications and knowledge management team identified three priority actions for 2014 and beyond.
1. CIAT personnel are familiar with CIAT Strategy 2014–2020 and understand their role in its implementation. This requires that we develop products that are fun, easy to understand, and instructive.
2. A joint project proposal that involves all CIAT research areas and serves as a replicable pilot study. The proposal will encompass multiple research areas as well as cross-cutting themes, such as gender, data management, capacity strengthening, and knowledge management. The pilot study must have a strong M&E component to determine changes in levels of integration and collaboration between areas. The process will be facilitated with support from Partnerships and Donor Relations, Communications and Knowledge Management team, and others.
3. A new intranet site for knowledge management and sharing. CIAT’s current intranet is obsolete and will be replaced with a new one developed in Microsoft SharePoint that is more conducive to sharing knowledge, building and supporting communities, and facilitating collaborative work. CIAT has an opportunity to develop the new site in collaboration with the CGIAR Consortium. As suggested by the external review of Corporate Services, the new intranet will provide a repository for key documents and include other content of interest to both researchers and support staff. The new site will offer the regions considerable autonomy in continuously updating the content. Corporate Services will play a key role in this activity, with strong support from Communications and Knowledge Management.
Over a series of blog posts we will discuss progress with the implementation of the strategy and the priority projects.