Findings of the readers' survey
As one of its knowledge management initiatives, the Asia and the Pacific Division has been producing a bimonthly electronic newsletter since November 2004. The primary objective of the newsletter is to disseminate information about IFAD operations and activities in Asia and the Pacific, which lead to enhanced partnerships and improved results from programmes and projects. The newsletter serves a broad audience including governments, projects, bilateral and multilateral organizations, research organizations, universities, consultants and NGOs.
In November 2005, the division prepared a readers’ survey and requested readers to return it by March 2006. This short report presents the findings of the survey.
Objectives and methodology
The objectives of the survey were to examine:
- the quality of the information provided in the newsletter
- the extent to which readers make use of the information provided
- readers’ preferences as regards contents and themes
- readers’ ability to access the newsletter
- the frequency of publication desired by the readers
- attractiveness of presentation
- suggestions on improving the newsletter
The division also hoped to discover additional information, such as the area of work of the respondents and new contacts of people interested in receiving future newsletters. In addition, the division expected that the survey itself might act as an information tool highlighting the value of the newsletter to IFAD and therefore encourage its use and continuous improvement.
The division prepared the survey in consultation with Thomas Elhaut, Director of Asia Division, Martina Spisiakova, Newsletter Coordinator and Roxana Samii, Web Coordinator, Communication Division. To conduct the survey, the division used the internet-based electronic survey software - Survey Monkey. The survey was sent on 30 November 2005 to about 3,000 persons outside IFAD, who are the current external newsletter readers. In addition, it was placed on the IFAD Intranet, which allowed IFAD staff to participate in the survey.
A total of 87 respondents from different countries and institutions participated in the survey. The respondents included development managers and consultants, government officials, programme coordinators, counsellors, policy coordinators, evaluation officers, professors and research specialists, NGO coordinators and advisers. The institutions with which the respondents were associated included: governments (Afghanistan, Balochistan, Cambodia, India, Switzerland), Bangladesh embassy, Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), IFAD, the World Bank, United Nations (UN), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), NGOs, Australian National University, Roskilde University, Denmark, financial institutions (Central Bank of the Philippines), consulting companies, etc. The summary of survey findings and results are recorded below.
Quality of the information provided in the newsletter
About 66 per cent of respondents ranked the content as good, and about 32 per cent said it was excellent. Respondents gave about ten different suggestions on how to improve the content; the most frequent ones are as follows:
- to link articles to detailed reports
- to make it easier to read
- to focus more on success stories rather than lecturing on development issues
- to be more self-critical
- to focus more on governance, financial management, natural resource management, and subsistence versus commercial farming
- to use the newsletter as an instrument to facilitate a forum for discussion within IFAD, for example, to come up with immediate responses to disaster
- to focus on programme and project design
- to make the newsletter longer
Extent to which the readers make use of the information provided
Readers use the newsletter in many different ways. Sixty-one per cent of the respondents indicated how they use the content of the newsletter. In total about 17 different ways of using the content were listed. They include:
- to keep abreast of development initiatives and build a knowledge base
- to gain insight into ways to strengthen initiatives in the programme area from the analytical presentation of cases
- to identify most current development needs and how IFAD responds to them
- to learn what IFAD is doing and share the information with colleagues and partners
- to look for approaches to evaluation and lessons learned from experience that may be incorporated into the design of programmes of other organizations
- to plan government projects and annual work plans
- to prepare learning presentations for different audiences by using examples from the newsletter
- to compare the impact of the same or similar interventions in other regions
- to monitor and evaluate IFAD’s work in the region
- to keep track of innovation and new technologies in the region
- to use as reference material and to prepare reading lists for students
- to identify potential opportunities for research and development work
About 32 per cent of respondents find the upcoming events and upcoming missions information useful. The information about upcoming events is used mostly in the following ways:
- to plan projects and activities
- to keep up-to-date and informed and to share this information with partners
- to try to get involved
- to identify potential opportunities linked to the upcoming events with other programmes in the region and to explore these opportunities in their programme area
- to follow up on meeting proceedings and outcomes
- to carry out studies
- to apply the knowledge acquired when necessary
- to learn about divisional initiatives
- to use as reference
- to use in reports
The information about the upcoming missions is used mostly in the following ways:
- to find out if they could play a role in missions
- to analyse the areas of collaboration and strategy development for their programmes in the future
- to understand what IFAD is doing in different countries
- to keep up with the division’s work programme
- to ensure that ENRAP activities do not clash with project activities
- to try to meet/interact with mission members to discuss relevant matters whenever possible
- to use as reference
Preferences regarding the newsletter’s content and themes
Sixty-three per cent of respondents prefer a thematic newsletter. The most desired topic is “agricultural technology management”, followed by “new opportunities for rural development”, “knowledge management”, “access to markets” and “institutional development”. The least desired topic was “private sector development”.
The respondents also suggested new themes. The topics that they stated most often included:
- financial management
- evaluation effectiveness
- environmental and natural resources management
- sustainable livelihoods
- micro-enterprise development
- health and sanitation
Other topics included:
- managerial capacity of projects
- cultural development
- rural infrastructure
- information and communication technologies
- globalization, international opportunities
- training and education
- public administration
- new IFAD policies and strategies
- trade, scenarios mapping and policy options
- women’s empowerment and social equity
- response to disasters
- alignment, partnerships, poverty reduction strategy papers
- conflict and agriculture
- enhancing effectiveness of foreign aid
- social exclusion
Ability of readers to access the newsletter
Ninety-six per cent of respondents face no difficulties in accessing the newsletter. However, some recipients would also like to receive hard copies.
Frequency desired by the readers
The majority of respondents, representing 42.4 per cent of readers, would like to receive the newsletter every month. Thirty-two per cent prefer a bimonthly issue and 25.9 per cent prefer a quarterly newsletter.
Attractiveness of the design
About 65 per cent of respondents ranked the newsletter’s design as good.
The results from the readers’ survey show that the newsletter has become a valuable and important communication tool for the Asia and the Pacific Division and IFAD as a whole. It shows different ways in which the information in the newsletter has been used by its readers; gives suggestions for improvement and new themes, at the same time as revealing the range of the newsletter’s readers, and confirming their interest in receiving future issues. The comments by readers have been incorporated into recommendations and will provide a basis for the division to work to improve the newsletter in the future.
Next steps and follow-up
Based on the survey results, the division has decided on next steps and priorities for follow-up in order to improve the newsletter. These include:
- Once IFAD’s disclosure policy is reviewed, the division is aiming to create links to appraisal and supervision reports, and interesting studies on the Internet.
- The list of topics for 2006 and 2007 will be revised in line with readers’ preferences.
- Following requests from some readers for hard copies, the division would like to make the newsletter available in the form of a publication (in collaboration with the Communication Division) and create a separate mailing list in order to send the newsletter by post.
- Language used in the newsletter will be simplified and made easier to read.
- Success stories will be balanced with lessons learned from evaluations or unsuccessful projects.
- Information will be gathered from projects, project reports and country programme managers on the topics requested by readers for consideration in the future.
- More photographs, maps of project areas, quotes by the division staff and consultants and links to websites will be used.