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Managing projects

Elaborating a Dissemination Plan

What is dissemination?

Dissemination refers to the process of making the results and deliverables of a project available to the stakeholders and to the wider audience. Dissemination is essential for take-up, and take-up is crucial for the success of the project and for the sustainability of outputs in the long term.

Planning for dissemination

To ensure that the project results will be taken up and embedded in the community, a project must develop a dissemination plan that explains how the outcomes of the project will be shared with stakeholders, relevant institutions, organisations, and individuals. Specifically, the dissemination plan will explain:

- Why – the purpose of dissemination
- What will be disseminated – the message
- To whom – the audience
- How – the method
- When – the timing.

Ideally, the dissemination plan will link with a broader dissemination strategy for the programme in which the project is part. It should be planned in consultation with the project partners and approved by the project management committee.

Stakeholder analysis

The dissemination strategy should be based on a stakeholder analysis. A stakeholder is anyone who has a vested interest in the project or will be affected by its outcomes. A stakeholder analysis is an exercise in which stakeholders are identified, listed, and assessed in term of their interest in the project and importance for the its success and further dissemination. Key stakeholders that are really important to the success of the project can act as ‘champions’ to ensure your project has a high profile and that the results are made known.

Key elements of a dissemination plan

  • Purpose
    All dissemination should have a purpose, and support or inform project development in some way. The purpose of the activity may be to:
    - Raise awareness – let others know what you are doing
    - Inform – educate the community
    - Engage – get input/feedback from the community
    - Promote – ‘sell’ your outputs and results.
    Defining the purpose of dissemination is a first step to decide on the audience, message, method and timing of the dissemination.
  • Audience
    The dissemination process depends on who you want to reach and what they can do for your project. Therefore, the different individuals, groups, and organisations that will be interested in the project and its results need to be identified and informed. For that purpose, use can be made of the results of the stakeholder analysis. The following audiences may be considered:
    - Internal audience. The members of the project consortium and your own institution need to stay well informed about the progress of the project. Adequate internal dissemination can also ensure that the project has a high profile.
    - Other project. Sharing project results with coordinators and key actors of projects dealing with similar topics, both within the programme and in others, will ensure visibility and uptake of results, and provide opportunities to receive feedback, share experiences and discuss joint problems and issues.
    - External stakeholders. Persons who will benefit from the outcomes of the project, as well as "opinion makers" such as teachers, researchers, librarians, publishers, online hosts, etc., can act as catalysts for the dissemination process..
    - The community. It is likely that certain elements of the project, such as guidelines, methods, evaluation criteria, questionnaires, etc. can be used by a wider audience than the specific target group. These elements can be shared with the wider community through articles, conference presentations, case studies, etc.
  • Message
    Once the purpose and audience of the dissemination are clear, the key messages can be defined. To than end, it is useful to keep the communication principles in mind:
    - Messages should be clear, simple and easy to understand. The language should be appropriate for the target audience, and non-technical language should be used where possible.
    - Messages should be tailored to the receiver(s). It is of paramount importance to carefully consider what they should know about the project. It is possible to send the same message to different audiences, but the relevance of the message to the receiver should be checked each time.
    - Messages of different projects related to the same subject can be coordinated to enhance impact.
    - Information should be correct and realistic.
  • Methods
    While there are a wide variety of dissemination methods, it is important to select the right one(s) to get your message to the target audience and achieve your purpose.
    - Newsletters, flyers and press releases can create awareness about the project.
    - Reports, journal articles, and websites can transmit information about the project.
    - Conference presentations and websites are ways to promote the project and its outcomes.
    In addition to more traditional dissemination methods, it can be useful to use less typical strategies. For example, workshops or online discussion lists can yield a higher level of engagement from stakeholders. This may be particularly relevant for conflicting information or information that is likely to meet resistance.
  • Timing
    When planning the dissemination, it is important to decide when different dissemination activities will be most relevant. The ideal timing will depend on the progress of the project as well as on the agenda of the target audience. For instance, at the start of the project, it is best to focus on raising awareness; at the end on highlighting the achievements and deliverables. In terms of the “receivers” agenda, the time commitments of the target audience and stakeholders should be considered. For instance, school or bank holidays should be acknowledged, and when working with universities, it will be difficult to reach academic staff at the start of the term or during examinations.

Evaluation of the dissemination

Like all other elements of a project, dissemination activities are targeted and can be more or less successful. To find out if the dissemination strategy was well chosen and well implemented, it is important to build an evaluation component into all major dissemination activities to monitor the quality and to see if they have achieved their aims. For example, the success of a website can be evaluated by checking the usage logs; training sessions can be evaluated by asking participants to complete an evaluation questionnaire; and publications can be evaluated by the number of citations.

Further reading

- Project Management Infokit. Jisc Infonet. http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk
- IACEE (1999). Tools for planning the dissemination of project results. http://www.leonardodavinci.fi/dissemination/tools.pdf
- Thompson MF, Green L, Hernández-Cordero, LJ, Fullilove RE (2006). Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Strategies to Disseminate Research. Health Promotion Practice, 7(3), 306-311.

  • OVERVIEW OF DISSEMINATION METHODS
  • TEMPLATE FOR DISSEMINATION PLANNING