Friday evenings are always a wonderful time to meet. Who you decide to meet with, however, is the fundamental question. At Y4P, we chose to make our Friday of 27th July 2018 a fun-filled and informative one with Maggie, Former Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), and Charles, a renowned Ugandan journalist. This second evening networking meeting happened at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Office in Kololo and it followed the first one that was held at the Residence of the KAS Country Director in June. These sessions are meant to enlighten fellows about the challenges and opportunities of the policy and national decision making landscape. Similarly, the gathering also enables the fellows to meet, interact and strengthen their networks with key policy experts in Uganda.
The meeting began with welcome remarks given by Yusuf Kiranda, of Centre for Development Alternatives (CDA). Yusuf briefly gave an overview of the Y4P program and introduced the guests to the audience. He then handed over to Maggie Kigozi who, based on her long-term practice in the private and public sector, highlighted the main challenges Uganda is facing in the policy cycle.
Maggie advised the Y4P Fellows that changing or influencing policy is complex but possible. She emphasized the need for well researched, evidence-based and data-backed policy recommendations if these recommendations are to earn ministerial and cabinet support. Relatedly, she warned that in the absence of a well-researched policy recommendation, the likelihood of such research joining the ‘on-shelf’ category is high. While relating to her personal experience, she identified distribution and sale of land, provision of infrastructure and taxation systems as the key issues still impeding private investments in the country, and therefore, successful policy in this direction is very important.
The media, being a fundamental part of policy process, Charles Mwangusha delved into explaining the massive opportunities in the media, that the Y4P Fellows can leverage to communicate their policy research. Charles emphasized the importance of audience segmentation and urged fellows to be deliberate on targeting their message on a specific audience. Additionally, he advised them to balance both the traditional and social media, free and paid-for media depending on what message and target audience. Like any other important communication, and as Maggie had highlighted, Charles re-emphasized the need for any article to be credible, consistent and well written.
Charles further noted the importance of message packaging and timing. ‘’Knowing which media house operates when and how and which season works well for the message you intend to communicate is key’’ He advised. As he concluded, he highlighted the need for fellows to leverage friends and ambassadors to communicate their research where necessary. This, according to him, is because one may write a very good policy brief but may be unable to effectively communicated it. He also advised fellows to be confident about what they are communicating.
The evening ended with cocktail drinks and bites, which facilitated more informal interactions and networking with fellows, mentors, focal-point persons, the guests and well-wishers from different organisations. The event was indeed timely as we prepare for our third policy development seminar this august which will cover strategic communication, Lobbying and networking.