Building Communication Skills and Institutional Mechanism for Capturing Lessons Learned

In preparation for the second Anniversary of the earthquake in Pakistan, the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) requested assistance from the Water and Sanitation Program-South Asia to build internal communications capacity and assist with capturing case studies showing concrete evidence of positive impact.

High-visibility projects influence a range of stakeholders and generally include a combination of popular and tough measures. Stakeholders need to be informed of proposed changes, have long term benefits explained to them, and be encouraged to modify their behavior, expectations, and attitudes accordingly.  When governments have addressed these issues, projects have been successful. Pro-active and innovative communication campaigns, sometimes spearheaded by political leaders, make all the difference and led to successful implementation of the project or proposed reform. 

The workshop, attended by 50 participants, was designed to work at two key levels: first to study and establish the linkage between communication support and development effectiveness, and second, to establish an enabling environment to develop communication skills and capacity.  

 Specific workshop objectives were: 

  • To be able to develop communication-related skills such as giving presentations, conducting and giving interviews to the media, dealing with communities and other diverse audience
  • To understand principles of good report/ story writing to start documenting the processes used in the earthquake recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation
  • To identify key materials that could be produced for the Earthquakes’ second anniversary and develop plans to produce them.  

The main session was devoted to case studies being presented by seven managers.  Not all managed to be result-oriented but the potential for learning and garnering lessons was clear in most. A good part of the workshop was devoted to imparting skills training to staff on how to handle TV interviews, and how to make powerful presentations. Another session on how to design a communication strategy led to a lively discussion and bought to the fore the complexity of strategic planning required for communications.  During the session, participants identified some priority audiences and objectives for the planned media activities of the second anniversary.   These included management and staff of ERRA and its field based agencies, State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Provincial Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority from North West Frontier Province. Other participants were from WSP-South Asia and its consultants, and The World Bank.  

  1. The workshop presented two practical cases (the public information campaigns already implemented by the Livelihoods Cash grant program and the rural housing program) of the crucial role strategic communication plays in the success and impact of such programs. These were a good tool to sensitize decision makers about the importance of incorporating communications as a mainstreamed component into their projects and initiatives.
  2. Through the discussions it was presented repeatedly that high-visibility projects influence a range of stakeholders with interests that may be complementary in some cases but conflicting in others: to manage this requires the active cooperation and mobilization of all affected stakeholders in order to be successful.
  3. An external communication plan to address affected stakeholders is not adequate: the institution must display the same commitment towards internal communication with a well defined plan for seeking employee buy-in for program policies or implementation of the project. Employees need to be informed about the program objectives; implications, and be able to modify not just their behavior, expectations, and attitudes but also those of the earthquake affected persons.
  4. Based on results, conclusions, and feedback gathered from the workshop ERRA to devise strategy to internalize and institutionalize the concept of strategic communication in sector units and their respective projects.
  5. In his closing remarks, Mr. Altaf M. Saleem, Chairman, ERRA said that the organization will seriously consider fast-tracking communications into its operations.  

There will be another wrap-up workshop in early September: besides consolidating case studies and communication plan(s), WSP would also like the material prepared to be presented collectively to a roundtable of editors (national and international) for their comments, insight, checking its new worthiness, and further development by their reporters.

Contact Name: 
Vandana Mehra
Contact Email: