RECAP: Engaging Decisionmakers on Family Planning in the Post-2015 World

On July 15, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) celebrated its IDEA—Informing Decision-makers to Act—Project’s first five years with a panel at the Wilson Center where key players in the project shared their successes and lessons learned with the family planning community. Here are some highlights from their talk:


Three drivers of change to create opportunities for change

Jason Bremner, associate vice president of PRB, explains PRB’s successful process to implement policy change around family planning. He explains it as a three-part process:


  1. Policy Learning: The first driver of change is education, helping people understand the issue and know what needs to be done to change it. Correct and standardized information is vital to gain support for any issue, but Bremner clarifies that facts aren’t the only thing you need. A compelling story combined with easily digestible facts—in the form of data sheets and infographics without highly technical language—can go a long way in convincing people family planning is a cause they should get behind. In Bremner’s words, you should be “keeping it simple, but not dumbing down the data.”


  1. Policy Community Strengthening: Once the facts and stories get people behind the cause, you want to strengthen those relationships. Continue to get journalist, advocates, researchers and other local support and train them to know how to talk about family planning with the rest of the community. These trusted sources will continue to spread the information, mobilize attention and grow your community of allies. You want to reach people from all aspects of society—not just those already advocating for family planning in the area. The bigger your reach, the better.


  1. Attention Focusing: Through the IDEA project, Bremner and PRB have found that “increasingly the flashpoint is at a lower and lower level for decisionmaking.” So IDEA has focused their attention on community decisionmakers rather than large government entities. Localizing the problem and working within communities rather than using a top-down approach creates a trusting and encouraging environment for policy change, especially around more sensitive issues like family planning.


Talking to the Media

Both Bremner and the Wilson Center’s Meaghan Parker, senior writer and editor for the Environmental Change and Security Program, stress the importance of building relationships with the media. You want journalists to trust your information and know that you’re not just looking for some free advertising. Bremner puts it well when he says, “empower them [with information], but let them tell their story.” Journalists are not there to do PR; they’re there to tell a story.


Four F’s for practical communications

Parker ends the speech portion of the panel with her helpful four F’s approach to communicating about family planning. She advises communicators to be flexible, flashy, frugal and friendly.


  • Flexible: “We have to meet people where they are at and, today, that is not your website.” Ramp up your social media presence and post interesting things frequently.


  • Flashy: “There are some really mind blowing tools out there” (like filmmaking) — use them! Get creative with how you are relaying information and more people will likely start paying attention.


  • Frugal: “Okay, that sounds expensive, right?” Use social media, email newsletters and free online tools to effectively communicate on a budget.


  • Friendly: “Finally and most importantly, be friendly.” Don’t limit yourself to talking only to people in your circle. Reach out to journalists and advocates in a variety of beats and interests and give them the information they need to tell the stories you want them to tell.


For more information on PRB’s IDEA project, you may visit their website.