Fall Research Conference


2018 Pre-Conference Workshop


Evidence for Action:
Encouraging Innovation and Improvement

November 8 - 10, 2018  | Washington Marriott Wardman Park |  Washington, DC

Pre-Conference Workshop: November 7, 2018, 11:00 am - 4:30 pm


Pre-Conference Workshop
Research to Policy Boot Camp: A Communications Toolkit for Researchers

To make a difference in today’s policy ecosystem, scholars must think beyond the academic journal. With funding often contingent on real-world influence, many academics and organizations know they must modernize but don’t know how.

The Urban Institute is pioneering new ways to communicate and share what we’ve learned in a research to policy boot camp. Known for our world-class scholarship in social and economic policy, Urban does more than build knowledge. We translate it, share it, and apply our fact-based insights in the real world, from neighborhoods to state capitals and the halls of Congress.

This workshop taught researchers how to navigate the fragmented media and policy landscape by making their insights accessible to diverse audiences, forming a narrative, developing an outreach plan, and putting it into action. Each session of the workshop focused on a different communication strategy: data visualization, presentation skills, social media, blog writing, interacting with reporters, and developing a cohesive communication strategy. Speakers—each of whom was an expert in his or her field—shared their strategies to help attendees gain the skills and tools they needed to communicate in modern, sophisticated ways.

Many researchers and scholars resist the idea of developing a communication strategy, thinking either that it doesn’t matter, that someone else will do it, or that their work will be naturally discovered. Developing a communication strategy—and implementing that strategy—recognizes the importance of making research accessible to wider audiences, decisionmakers, and policymakers. In this workshop, researchers learned practical strategies and skills that enabled them to communicate their work to their desired audiences.

View The Urban Institute's slides from the Research to Policy Bootcamp at #2018APPAM.

Details of Workshop Agenda


To make a difference in today’s policy ecosystem, scholars must think beyond the academic journal. This workshop teaches researchers, scholars, and practitioners how to navigate the media and policy landscapes by making their insights accessible to diverse audiences, forming a narrative, developing an outreach plan, and putting it into action. These lessons fit squarely within this year’s APPAM conference theme, Evidence for Action: Encouraging Innovation and Improvement, by encouraging attendees to be innovative not only with their research methods but also with how they—and their organizations—communicate results to a broad audience.


Through this one-day workshop, we hope to provide researchers with the knowledge of why communicating research is important and how to do so. The toolkit—through lecture and small group work—is designed to provide researchers with the tools they need to more effectively communicate their work to their target audience.

We have three main goals through this workshop. First, to provide attendees with the knowledge base of why communicating research is important. We strive to help our workshop participants to look beyond the working paper or journal article to see how they can make their work more applicable and useful. Second, to provide attendees with core principles about how to embark on better and more effective communication. Through our team of experts in communication strategy, outreach, data visualization, writing, and more, we can provide the best instruction in this compact format. Third, we seek to inspire our attendees to use their research to help others meet their goals, make discoveries, and find insight through effectively communicating their work.


This is a single-track workshop with sessions led by Urban Institute experts. Speakers cover a wide array of areas to more effectively communicate their research. We also propose two panel discussions, also moderated by Urban experts. In the first, we will bring together decisionmakers and policymakers to explain how they use in-depth sophisticated research and what they need to implement that research. In the second, we will bring together members of the Washington, DC, media to explain how researchers can get their work in the hands of reporters and news organizations.

Schedule at a Glance

Wednesday, November 7

11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Overview hosted by Urban’s Bridget Lowell
Understand the philosophy of presenting research to policymakers and general audiences and why you should identify goals and audiences beyond journals and relevant scholars in your field. Bridget Lowell, chief communications officer and vice president for strategic communications and outreach at the Urban Institute, kicks off the workshop by explaining why research should live outside the academic journal and how researchers can better leverage their work in the chaotic policy and media landscape.
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM Audience Outreach Strategy
All audiences are not the same; they have different levels of expertise and need different information to help them do their jobs better and find
insights. Researchers may wish to reach different audiences with different projects, report types, and content areas. Amy Elsbree, senior director of external affairs at the Urban Institute, explains how researchers can develop a strategy for reaching their target audience, be it other practitioners, decisionmakers, or policymakers.
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM Lunch: Policymaker Panel
Current and former leaders from Capitol Hill, the administration, and local government share how they consume information, what they need to make decisions, and what researchers do right and wrong. Moderated by Donnie Charleston, director of state and local fiscal policy engagement at the Urban Institute.
1:30 PM – 2:15 PM Insider's View: Media Panel
Current and former print, radio, and television reporters explain what the media wants and what researchers and experts do right and wrong when they interview. Moderated by Stu Kantor, the Media Relations Manager at the Urban Institute, this panel discussion will provide workshop attendees with an inside view of how reporters view research and what they need to use it in the newsroom.
2:15 PM – 3:15 PM

Breakout sessions

  • Media 101 – Urban’s Stu Kantor
    This small group breakout session, attendees will discuss ways to more effectively pitch their content to reporters and practice their interview skills.
  • Digital 101 – Urban’s David Connell
    Attendees will learn the basics of blogging and specific steps to create and use the Twitter social media platform.
  • Data Viz 101 – Urban’s Jon Schwabish
    Attendees get hands-on experience with Microsoft Excel to create better, more effective data visualizations.
3:15 PM – 4:00 PM

Communicating Research: Perspectives from Other Organizations

Panlists include:

  • Bridget Lowell, Vice President, Strategic Communications and Outreach, Urban Institute (Moderator)
  • Shannon Buckingham, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • David Roberts, Director of Strategic Communications, Mathematica Policy Research
  • Linda Roth, Vice President of External Relations, Wilson Center
4:00 PM – 4:25 PM Create and Develop a Successful Policy Impact Plan
Bring concepts together to create a seamless dissemination and outreach strategy for your research. Emphasize themes and messages across various media platforms to shape the audiences’ understanding. Kate Villarreal, director of strategic communications for the Urban Institute, talks about unifying different messages and products under a cohesive dissemination and outreach strategy.
4:25 PM – 4:30 PM Concluding remarks