We’re cross-blogging in September with NCRPP and NNERPP! Read below for more on NNERPP’s annual forum, and head over to NNERPP’s website for Caitlin Farrell’s blog on how partnerships can play an important role in research use in education.
The National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnerships (NNERPP) is a recently launched network that aims to develop and support research-practice partnerships in education in order to improve the connection between research, policy, and practice. NNERPP recently held its Annual Forum, August 3-5, in New Orleans, Louisiana. This annual convening brings together at least researcher and one practitioner from research-practice partnerships (RPPs) operating all across the U.S., in addition to policy advocates and funders interested in supporting the work done by RPPs. Representatives from nineteen RPPs, most of them members of NNERPP, participated in the Forum this year.
Through an interactive agenda, participants were supported in targeted dialogue aimed at facilitating knowledge sharing around partnership “best practices.” Some of the topics included discussions on the types of skills needed to work in this space, examples of how partnerships have helped facilitate districts’ use of evidence to inform policy and practice, and a variety of breakout sessions centered on the strategies partnerships have employed to address partnership challenges.
In this particular blog post, I highlight some of the key takeaways from the breakout session on how RPPs might communicate with external stakeholders, which was facilitated by Jim Kemple, Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, and Laura Wentworth, Director of the Stanford-San Francisco Unified School District Partnership.
1) A variety of stakeholders external to the partnership should be considered in the communications plans.
Participants defined “external stakeholders” as audiences that fell outside the boundaries of an RPP or were not formally connected to the RPP. Examples include parents and families, students, state and local policymakers, school boards (elected officials that are quasi-external to school districts), community organizations, the general public, and the local community at-large. One of the key differences between internal and external stakeholders is the depth of connection between parties: those internal to the partnership have developed a deeper level of trust between stakeholders, and so can utilize different avenues of communication that are not always relevant or appropriate for those not directly linked to the work. External communications can be relatively more complicated due to the absence of a trust-based relationship.
2) The frequency and type of communications with these multiple stakeholders often varies considerably.
Partnership work is typically not a linear process. As such, external audiences come into play at different times along the research process. Additionally, the diversity in experiences and exposure to research of external stakeholders often necessitates very different communications approaches. A few strategies suggested by session participants include: making an effort to get on the meeting agendas of higher-level district leaders and established community groups; providing a one-page policy brief summarizing the research that is “visually pleasing” to school boards; hosting feedback meetings with teachers and offering practical guides that explain implications of the research; and coordinating public release events on various media formats to help spread the knowledge.
3) Ultimately, how partnerships communicate with external stakeholders should be planned early on in the partnership.
Being able to rely on a mutually agreed upon, pre-determined protocol with how to communicate externally will help the partnership avoid unnecessary complications that could arise if strategies are thrown together last minute. Finally, partnerships should also consider the differences between simple communications and engagement – some external stakeholders will require both approaches according to their relationship to the research.