UPLB, SEARCA levels up strategic communication efforts of HEIs

THIRTEEN higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines are leveling up their strategic communication efforts in a training program jointly implemented by the College of Development Communication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

These were the Cavite State University, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, Central Luzon State University, Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College, Iloilo State College of Fisheries, Laguna State Polytechnic University, Mindanao State University, Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College, Romblon State University, Sorsogon State University, Tarlac Agricultural University, University of Rizal System, and Visayas State University.

The 19 delegates from these member universities of the State Colleges and Universities Association of Colleges of Agriculture in the Philippines Inc. (SUC-ACAP) participated in the training event titled Strategic Communication Planning Workshop: Enhancing Communication Skills for Higher Education Institutions in the Philippines (StratCom4HEIs) held from Nov. 20 to 24, 2023.

SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio said StratCom4HEIs is under the Short-Term Training Program component of the Leveling-Up Higher Education Institutions in Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources or LevelUPHEI AFAR project, funded by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education or CHEd.

StratCom4HEIs started in 2021 to build the leadership and research and development capacities of faculty/staff members from the 75 SUC-ACAP member universities and enhance their institutions' internationalization efforts by linking them with the University Consortium and other HEIs in the region through participation in short-term training courses (online, onsite, hybrid) and cross-visits.

StratCom4HEIs was organized and implemented by SEARCA through its Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit or ECLD-T4DU.

Gregorio said this project is designed to enhance the public communication skills of its participants, particularly in the design and development of appropriate communication materials.

The training event included eight modules, which covered public/strategic communication lectures and a hands-on guided workshop on strategic communication planning and the development of communication materials.

Part of the training event is the presentation of participants' strategic communication plans and prototypes of communication materials for their respective university campaigns, extension programs, and research projects at the end of the program.

UPLB professor and technical coordinator Edmund Centeno led the implementation of StratCom4HEIs. His team was joined by other professors from UPLB-CDC Department of Educational Communication and UPLB Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in conducting the lectures and facilitating the workshops.

Gregorio opened the weeklong workshop emphasizing SEARCA's vision of helping Philippine HEIs acquire the necessary competencies "to spearhead reforms that can shape the education system and promote the best interests of research institutions and public service."

He also challenged the participants to commit to "a communication strategy that not only informs but also inspires, not just conveys but connects, and not only disseminates but transforms."

Welcoming the participants, UPLB-CDC Dean Ma. Stella Tirol said that in the ever-changing landscape of higher education, "effective communication is not just a skill; it is the cornerstone upon which collaboration, innovation, and progress thrive."

Tirol said StratCom4HEIs empowers participants to strategically plan communication, from analyzing current situations to designing strategic planning matrices to communication production, testing of materials, monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring the sustainability of communication plans.

Emphasizing the significance of participatory approaches in formulating strategic communication plans, Centeno and his team reiterated the imperative of integrating participation in the framework of communication for development. "This assures targeted and ensured communication that is not only appropriate but is also responsive to stakeholders' needs."

He also reminded the participants that developing communication materials extends beyond monitoring and evaluation and toward sustainability.

Testimonials were shared by some of the participants, which shed light on the valuable insights they gained throughout the workshop, with reflections ranging from crafting Smart (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) communication objectives to learning about strategically steering communication development activities to achieve project objectives.

SEARCA Deputy Director for Programs Nur Azura Binti Adam also shared her enthusiasm in witnessing the implementation of the participants' ComDev (Communication for Development) plans within their HEIs.

Nur said SEARCA and UPLB-CDC hope to see participants share their learnings with colleagues and extend this knowledge to their students. "It's the multiplier effect of our training programs that serves as a measure for their effectivity and impact."