Though the Hewlett Foundation-sponsored training experience was high quality, surveys and interviews suggested opportunities to improve.

Four Recommendations

  1. Ensure readiness for training. In cases where training proved highly valuable, participant organizations had or were able to put adequate human and financial resources into place to support communications, and, in many instances, they were on the verge or in the midst of a key organizational transition (e.g., new organization, new funding, new leadership, or programmatic change).
  2. Invite participation of teams (only). Training time was most highly valued by participants who did not attend training alone. Joined by a team member, participants felt better able to apply training lessons to their actual work while in training and to bring lessons back to the office. Those who attended alone wished they had been joined by at least one partner. Ideal training teams included a decisionmaker vested with authority (e.g., executive director) and an implementer (e.g., communications or program officer).
  3. Conduct robust follow-up. Lessons learned in training fade fast unless they are reinforced. Existing follow-up includes optional technical assistance, but this may not be enough and not everyone took advantage. Participants suggested additional courses to refresh or deepen skills, and ongoing Foundation encouragement of and involvement in strategic communications.
  4. Integrate communications with program strategy. Just as organizations are encouraged in training to make communications an integral part of their strategic program work, the Foundation can play a role to incorporate communications into the development, management, and evaluation of grants/programs. This may involve financial support for communications and ongoing dialogue initiated by Foundation program officers.
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