Communications Learning Weeks

IIED's Communications Learning Weeks are an opportunity for IIED and its partners to come together to explore tools and strategies for delivering effective communications.

In 2018 IIED welcomed colleagues from Brazil, Cameroon, India, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe to Communications Learning Week (Photo: Anne Schulthess/IIED)

In 2018 IIED welcomed colleagues from Brazil, Cameroon, India, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe to Communications Learning Week (Photo: Anne Schulthess/IIED)

IIED organises an annual workshop that brings together its own communications team with communications specialists from partner organisations around the world.  

Partnerships are a key characteristic of IIED's way of working, and our learning week is an opportunity for us to come together with partners in order to explore common themes, build relationships and learn from one another about the challenges of communicating about sustainable development.

The workshop programme typically includes sessions on topics such as media relations, audience mapping and digital communications. Our partners present case studies of media campaigns that have worked well and discuss the elements that contributed to their success. We also take the opportunity to analyse target audiences and how best to reach them – whether they are local farmers or international policy analysts.

After our 2019 learning week IIED's head of research communications, Rosalind Goodrich, wrote about the value of hearing from colleagues about their communication challenges, and the benefits of mutual learning. She has also highlighted the importance of taking time for learning whether through sharing experiences or having in-depth conversations. 

And following the coronovirus pandemic, 2022 saw our first learning week completely online. After its conclusion, two participants shared reflections on the importance of strategic communications to help raise local voices so they can contribute to and influence global solutions to our environmental challenges.

Solving problems and sharing resources

During the workshop participants have the opportunity to ask colleagues for advice on tricky issues. We organise tailored sessions that focus on the specific needs of individual partner organisations, and we also arrange for participants to meet with researchers to learn about their views on publishing their research.

A key feature of the week is a discussion of the latest ways of engaging with the widest possible audience. While IIED's team reports on new software and technologies, delegates from developing countries can deliver useful perspectives on the realities of working in countries with limited broadband and social media activity –– for example, one of our partners in Uganda uses text messaging and radio to reach local farmers.

Whether it is radio or Twitter, identifying easy and low-cost tools is particularly important for organisations with limited resources. By sharing what we have learned, we can all improve our impact. 

Reporting on Communications Learning Week

We encourage participants to report on what they have learned. A popular workshop session focuses on blog writing and we publish the blogs written by delegates, while IIED communications director Liz Carlile highlighted four key points to remember when trying to communicate to influence policy after the 2015 event.

Social media platforms enable people to tell the story of events as they happen. You can read detailed Storify round-ups of recent learning weeks:

You can see a photo gallery of our 2018 Communications Learning Week on IIED's Flickr site

The first Communications Learning Week took place in 2011. Read the feedback of participants, including a series of video interviews

Inspiring and informative

At IIED we find Communications Learning Week an inspiring and informative experience. We hope our international partners benefit from it too. The video playlist below features interviews with participants who attended our 2014 event.

We want the conversations to continue, and we have set up a Facebook group for Comms Learning Week alumni to allow participants to share news and information. We hope the friendships we are making can be the basis for a growing learning and support network for communications professionals working in sustainable development.