You may have noticed the lack of Econnect newsletters since June. We hope you’re ready to see our latest communication tips again.

The reason? Econnect has been going through some big changes over the past three months. After 21 years of working with various teams of terrific in-house consultants, I’ve decided to go it alone with the help of a few subcontractors, including previous staff members.

Please check out our new website. I’d love your feedback. Thanks to Alison Binney (a former member of our team) for putting it together for me.

I’ve also sold our office premises at West End, Brisbane, and have rented a smaller space downstairs in the same building from the new owners.

As a reflection of all this change, I thought we would make this month’s newsletter about Adapting to change. Communicators can play a vital role in helping people adapt to change.

As always, we’d love your feedback via FacebookTwitter or email.

Regards from the @EconnectTeam

Jenni MetcalfeSarah Cole (newsletter editor), Jane Ilsley and Melina Gillespie.

Making changes based on evidence

By Jenni Metcalfe

One of the aims of science communicators is to help decision-makers to make more informed choices. This is how we can influence changes to policies and actions.

But often the culture of science means it can be hard to provide the black and white facts that many decision-makers want before they are willing to create change.

Scientists deal in probabilities, not absolutes. Definitive experiments that absolutely prove something as true are virtually impossible for many fields of science. The science often tells contradictory stories (think of research on the benefits, or not, of red wine). And scientists want to include all the qualifications to their results.

Red wine: healthy, or not? Image: Carl Davies, CSIRO Science Image

So what can communicators do to help facilitate change based on evidence?

  1. Listen to the communication needs of the decision-makers.
  2. Communicate as early as possible about any new information that will help people to change before it becomes too late.
  3. Focus on solutions to a problem, rather than the impacts of the problem.
  4. Learn to paint the big picture of evidence rather than getting lost in the detail.

It’s more about accepting change

By Sarah Cole

It’s been a long time since I’ve done paid full-time work. A momentous change – the birth of my son was nearly a year ago, now.

Looking back, even if I’d had future-me to talk to, then, all future-me’s words would be in a foreign language I was not yet fluent in. I’d get the gist, but not get it.

Adapting to the change has been more about accepting it, I’ve found. When people have asked about coping with other changes in my life, I’ve said before, “You do it, or you die.” There’s no ‘not coping’.

Here’s how I think I’ve muddled through:

  • Find shipmates. Those people who are in the same boat as you? They’ll be invaluable, learning and laughing alongside you and your mistakes.
  • Accept people’s advice gently. Now I understand the reason for the sometimes overwhelming mountains of advice from others. Mostly, it’s empathy, hoping that just one thing you say could make life easier for another person.
  • Allow a little struggle. It sure is difficult to come to terms with change if you haven’t waded in, waded through it. Get in, find the slippery, invisible floor with your feet, then start walking out.

Communicating messages for change

By Jenni Metcalfe

In my communication to farmers about managing their climate risk and adapting to inevitable climate change, I’ve discovered that there are messages that work to facilitate change and others that will more likely entrench the status quo.

The Climatedogs – animated explanations of climate drivers in Australia that focus on showing trends. Image: Managing Climate Variability

Focus on Avoid
Solutions Problems
Facts + emotions + values Facts only
Local impacts Global impacts
Many solutions One solution
It’s all about you It’s all about the science
Costs of inaction Costs of action
Show the trends Argue the details
People benefiting from change People suffering from impacts of not changing

Quote of the month

“We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature.”

— Edmund Burke