This somewhat eye catching blog headline was offered by Klaus von Grebmer at IFPRI in response to my Rosling? Eh... post a couple of days ago.
Klaus used to be the Director of Communications at IFPRI and knows a thing or two about this topic. Apart from the fact that I wouldn't be going to London nightclubs these days, let alone taking my grandmother (yes, Duncan Green is right, I can be grumpy), his point is that Hans Rosling is communicating to people who are not researchers.
"I think that Hans' presentation addresses a totally different audience. The TED audience is usually not attended by researchers and by people that know as much about population growth as the Pope knows about yodeling. Agreed, Lant does only take 2 minutes, but - contrary to Hans -what he says will not stick in the minds of non-researchers."
My colleague David O'Brien at IDRC (IDS Alum and one of our Board members) said:
So first my grandmother, then the Pope, and now my kids have been brought into the debate.
But I think I conceded the different audience point in the previous blog--although not easily.
For example, the Pritchett video is directed to non researchers. It says simply that aid is not as effective as it could be because we take models that work in one place and blindly assume they can be transplanted elsewhere. Trees transferred without their roots. Pretty visual even without the image. Function follows Form, when Form should follow Function. I think that is pretty simple, profound and memorable.
A post I wrote a year or two back on Heath and Heath's "Made to Stick" is all about this topic, about how researchers can hear the music of the research in their heads and they often assume the music is blaring out to everyone, when of course they are the only listeners. This makes the art of communication vital if evidence is to contribute to change. And we all have to improve in this domain.
Another domain in which I have been asked to up my game is controversy. I am too sedate (see Simon in comments on previous post). In general I like to think I don't shy away from controversy when I feel I am on solid ground (e.g. the MVP debate--see letter published in Lancet yesterday). But controversy to pump up the stats? Not for me. But I will see if I can be more edgy within the evidence limits I set for myself.
As always, thanks for the feedback. It's ironic that this post created so much buzz when the one on the 2 Hoddinott papers took 10 times as much time to write and is much more important--just goes to show how much work I have to do to improve my own communication!