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[ELLA Community blog series] Beyond Stated Objectives: How a south-south research project developed the skills of a university department

This article was written by Oyewole Adekunle Oladapo, doctoral student and tutorial assistant in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His research and teaching focus on social media for development, media discourse and democratic empowerment, and participatory digital media in the Nigerian context. He was part the research team at Ibadan University that led, alongside colleagues from FundaUngo in El Salvador, the ELLA comparative research on community-based crime prevention.

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Professor from Ibadan University chatting with a researcher from Grupo Faro, Ecuador
Professor from Ibadan University chatting with a researcher from Grupo Faro, Ecuador

“When actually does the impact of a policy-engaged research end?” This question kept my mind busy as we disembarked the minivan driven by our team leader and made our way to the office of the lead researcher of the strokes study in the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan.

Led by Prof. Ayo Ojebode, we had just concluded the three-year south-south research project, Evidence and Lessons from Latin America (ELLA) Phase II. And following his experience and our feat in research engagement on that project, our university had just asked him to work with different researchers and research team on campus to enhance the uptake of their research. The first of such team was the one that studied strokes.

The objective of the ELLA II project was to promote south-south learning, while the objective of our research pair on the ELLA project was to understand why community-based crime prevention in Nigeria and El Salvador works or fails. Both objectives were brilliantly achieved but beyond these, ELLA II turned us into something else: research uptake experts, infographic gurus, webinarians, and mini-consultants in comparative research.

Our department, Communication and Language Arts of University of Ibadan, Nigeria, participated in the ELLA Phase II project alongside 11 other research centres. We were one of a few universities to participate, so it is not surprising that we have interesting stories to tell in addition to the successful completion of the research.

The research community in our department, especially the master and doctoral programmes, has benefitted immensely from our experience with ELLA. In teaching research methods at those levels, we now emphasise the place of engagement in the research process as integrative, spanning the entire research from beginning to end. Our team members have on a number of occasions offered insightful comments and provided useful guidance to research students on research planning, design, and execution. We do all of these utilising the knowledge we gained from the feedbacks we received on our reports—annotated bibliography, design and methods paper, regional and comparative evidence papers—and communication products—policy briefs and infographics.

We also experienced a positive development in the area utilising online resources for complementing classroom teaching. Our participation in ELLA II boosted our capacity to utilise online resources for learning purposes. Having co-moderated the ELLA online learning alliance successfully with the lead researcher, Dr Babatunde Ojebuyi now leads the departmental initiative to integrate the virtual and the real classroom. As other members of staff also understudied Babatunde as he moderated the online learning alliance, the department now boasts of lecturers who deploy online resources such as Mail list, Facebook group, WhatsApp group, Google group, Moodle, etc to break the barriers of space and time in providing academic instructions.

Our development communication classes especially are being positively influenced by our participation in ELLA II. Hitherto the project, the department had always taught the use of (Information, Education, Communication) IEC materials for communicating research outputs. We are now adding to our list of IEC materials different forms of infographics and policy briefs. We will be teaching our students how to write targeted policy briefs to reach different categories of policy actors with research findings. Also, we will be teaching them how to develop a storyboard, and from it design infographics that can communicate research findings using more images and few words. We want to equip them also with the ability to tell the most scientific of research findings in a simple and interesting language. We started speaking these languages at our department only after participating in ELLA Phase II.

When we started the ELLA II project, we did not have staff capacity building and empowerment in view. But now we have become better placed to perform our primary responsibility as an academic department for participating in ELLA research project.

“When actually does the impact of a policy-engaged research end?” It possibly never does.

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The opinions expressed in blog entries by ELLA Community members are theirs alone unless otherwise stateted, and do not reflect the opinions of The ELLA Network. This article is part of the Methodologies Blog Series, which focuses on new research methods and research outreach experiences.
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