Get to know the policy makers, their agendas and their constraints

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Web 2.0 tools present opportunities to support the work of researchers in understanding and responding to the political contexts in their countries. The main goal here is to understand the current policy scenario and to be able to establish and nurture relationships with local and national policy makers in order to respond to opportunities to influence policy processes and decision-making.

The tasks for researchers and activists are:

  1. Get to know the policy makers, their agendas and their constraints.
  2. Identify potential supporters and opponents.
  3. Keep an eye on the horizon and prepare for opportunities in regular policy processes.
  4. Look out for – and react to – unexpected policy windows

Get to know the policy makers, their agendas and their constraints.

This requires an active approach in seeking information about policy makers' work agenda but also the political context in which they are working, as well as their working routines. Specifically, this is about:

Strategy: Follow online spaces where policy makers publish information about their work

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
RSS Feeds.

You can set up RSS feeds through web services (like Google Reader[1] or Netvibes) or through RSS readers (like Thunderbird or Quick Reader).

Through RSS Feeds, you can follow websites (that offer RSS services) and monitor when they update their information.

* There is no need to go to each site that has relevant information. If the website offers RSS (most websites that run on Web 2.0 technology do), then subcribe and get updates when there is new information on the site.
  • For offline RSS readers (like Thunderbird or Quick Reader), you can download RSS Feeds like you would your email. This provides offline access to information.

Some websites are not able to organise their RSS services efficiently so their RSS feeds might not provide enough information to know if the new content would be relevant for you. The Review of Policy Research Forum has RSS Feeds for updated content and new comments on the content. The RSS Feed for the update content can be set up here:
Social networking updates

Twitter[2], Google Buzz allow for short messages to be published and shared between different sites and systems, including number of mobile applications.

By following someone on Twitter, Google Buzz or similar tools we can get short updates on what they are doing, planning and thinking. Only updates from people who use these systems can be followed.

One must be authorised by twitter feeds' (tweets') publishers in order to follow their tweets.

Strategy: Following online spaces where secretariats publish information about policymakers' agendas

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
RSS Feeds See above See above See above
Online calendars

Online calendars, such as Google Calendar Desktop applications able to use online calendar feeds (MS Outlook calendar, Mozilla Thunderbird calendar, and many others)

Most modern sites and blogs which feature some type of calendar of events offer sharing the calendar through a standard calendar feed. Such feed can be imported to a Google Calendar or a desktop calendar application, exported into most mobile devices, etc. Planed events published by many different sources (e.g. gvt or municipal offices) can thus be displayed in a single calendar, they can be further shared, etc. Not all secretariats make information related to policy-making publicly available online.

If available, the information is often not available in shareable iCalendar format.


Alerts from sites/pages when content is added - Tools like Versionista[3] or Change Alert

Can be used to monitor sites of stakeholders in policy making processes.

Versionista allows to monitor entire websites and receive e-mail alerts when changes that meet specific regular expressions are made.

Strategy: Become involved on interactive spaces where policymakers are present

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
Online forums,

Getting access to interactive online forums and similar spaces allows us to get involved in discussion, access additional resources linked from these spaces, get direct access to other members, etc. Online forums and similar spaces are often private and the access is regulated (invited members only). One has to be known to existing members or to build sufficient credibility to be allowed to join such spaces (same as happens with face-to-face discussions and networks).

Strategy: Follow online spaces which policy makers also follow

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
RSS feeds

Subscribe to RSS feeds from information sources that you know are followed by policy-makers.

See above See above
Social networking updates

Twitter, Google Buzz

By following someone's tweets (stream of Twitter updates) we can also see what other tweets that person is following. That way we can eventually follow the same updates as policy makers do. See above

Strategy: Follow personal online spaces which are publicly accessible

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
Social networking tools such as Facebook[4], LinkedIn[5], Orkut[6], Ning, etc Many individuals and groups maintain publicly accessible spaces on social networking tools (e.g. LinkedIn groups) which they want to share with other users of those tools. Depending on the setting it is common that it is possible to actively participate in these groups/spaces (post comments, alerts to own content, etc. Many policymakers don't have publicly accessible profiles in social networking systems.

Access to Ning groups used as real working spaces is usually restricted only to members.


(through Rss)

If the policymakers you are interested in maintain their own blogs, follow these blogs through RSS feeds (see above)

Strategy: Link with policy makers whenever possible and build real life, as well as 'online relationships' with them

Tools and Usage Potentials Limitations Examples
Social Networking tools By inviting others to own social networks (e.g. by becoming 'friends' in Facebook) we get access to a whole bundle of private and work-related information about them. That includes also information about people they are linked with, things they are interested in, etc.

Presence in each other's social networking spaces also create an illusion of a real linkage and a sort of intimacy, which can then help in building a work relationship in 'real life'.

See above re necessity to gain access into other people's social networks.

There are some important privacy issues with social networking services which users should be aware of before sharing their content on them (see [#appendix1 Appendix 1])

Social networking alerts

Twitter, Google Buzz

See above See above
Online forums See above See above

Social networking tools mentioned above are so popular because they give users the impression of a real connection: One knows what others are doing right now, what they are thinking about (Twitter tweets and Facebook updates), others are always available and ready to react to ones' impulses (online status notifications, built-in chats, discussion threads, etc).

Most of this networking happens where people already know each other personally or through trusted intermediaries, have established certain level of mutual confidence and let each other into 'their networks'. Consequently, linking through social networking tools should be already built in other forms of real-life networking. Your new contacts from a conference or round tables should be immediately invited to link with your work spaces on Facebook or Linked-in, offered to follow you on twitter or to subscribe to rss feeds from your blog. People who you want to follow your information should be directly approached and offered these linkages, and these spaces should be publicized where appropriate (included in electronic signature, published on research institution's website, etc).



Table of Contents of the iGuide

1. Introduction

2. Basic Communication Strategy and use of Web 2.0 Tools for Evidence Based Policy

3. Section 1: Political Context

4. Section 2: Evidence

5. Section 3: Links

This iGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Impact 2.0 is a project of the Fundación Comunica with funding provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), IDRC.jpg Ottawa, Canada.

Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.