by Marissa Yeakey, policy analyst
At PRB, we’re always striving to find innovative ways to communicate data to broad audiences outside the world of public health; the ENGAGE Project is one example of these efforts. The ultimate goal of ENGAGE is to save women’s lives by raising awareness about high fertility and its costs and consequences. Our main activity is development of presentation materials that convey reproductive health data in new ways in order to inspire political will among policy and decision makers. In the worlds of academia and research, ‘inspiration’ and ‘data’ might regularly go hand in hand; when it comes to developing policy, however, achieving that synergy may be far more complex. To guide our efforts, therefore, we’ve assembled Task Forces of the best local experts in programs, research, and policy.
I came to Kenya with an ENGAGE colleague for the third meeting of our Task Force on family planning. It was my first meeting with them, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been told that we had made an effort to include representatives from multiple sectors and the experts who were in Nairobi. A brief scan over the list of invitees confirmed the broad reach of our search –- nongovernment organizations, donor representatives, government and ministry officials, civil society, and service delivery organizations were all represented.
Our agenda for the half-day meeting was to build on previous discussions of what family planning messages needed to be conveyed to what audiences in order to reinvigorate political will to invest in Kenya’s family planning program. After we had summarized the steps taken to this point, brainstorming began on how to design a short, compelling presentation, keeping in mind our goal to use data to inspire. One of our challenges on the project is to move beyond the PowerPoint status quo of concise bulleted points and simple graphs; going into the meeting, I had few ideas of my own as to how to begin to meet this challenge. As our participants began to share ideas and build on each other, though, the energy, intellect, and determination of so many committed experts came together with an abundance of ideas that just might fit our bill. The best part was that everyone in attendance had a chance to speak their piece, and every contribution added to our presentation goal.
I came away from the meeting feeling like my mind was overflowing with the potential of the day’s discussion. I was actually excited to retire to my hotel room and spend the evening processing the fruits of our discussion and keep us moving forward, building on the energy of the day.
There is still a lot of work that remains on ENGAGE before we reach our goal of inspiring Kenyan policymakers to make a renewed stand on family planning. But with the excitement and creativity of our expert Task Force, I am confident that our efforts will not go wrong.