Step 4 involves moving that knowledge into the hands of those you want to influence. There are many tools available to do this: the products to be released, the conferences and workshops to hold, and the amplifiers, including electronic mailing lists and websites, which get replicated throughout much wider audiences than may have been targeted.
At the heart of the tactics and strategies that are developed is the creative management of opportunities: both taking advantage of key windows to move the assessment findings into the hands of others, and creating opportunity directly.
An important part of this process is the development of “key messages,” a series of short, simple, plain language statements that capture the essence of the work. There is a real skill in drafting statements that capture the essence of what you want to say, and expressing it in a way that is relevant to those you wish to influence and inform. This can be done with end users and tested in focus groups. The IPCC case study talks about one of the “key messages” from its work:
The world is likely to see “a rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century...that is greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years.”
This straightforward message was by most accounts, very influential in catalyzing the decision making process, which eventually led to the signing of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 (Agrawala 1997).
Also, keep in mind what you have learned about “issue cycles,” recognizing that timing is important as you seek to position your findings in light of other competing or comparable public and political interests.
The development of scenarios based on the findings presents another type of opportunity to engage key target decision-makers. In a scenario process, you will work with them to think through the implications of the findings from your assessment. Scenarios help decision-makers deal with uncertainties, and provide options for action. The value of scenarios in helping decision-makers to buy into, and act on, your findings is discussed further in Module 6.
As opportunities often arise unexpectedly, responding to them requires creativity and a degree of improvization. However, one can prepare for cases like that by having products, properly prepared staff and protocols in place. The preparation and communication of products is discussed in more detail in Module 7.