Many young researchers aim to improve population and health policies but lack the necessary skills to translate data and results into policy-applicable recommendations. To overcome this gap, PRB’s Policy Communication Fellows program strengthens the capacity of young researchers from developing countries to influence policies for lasting change.

Now entering its 28th year, the program empowers doctoral students from USAID priority countries with the skills to translate their research into clear and actionable messages for policy audiences. With these skills, Policy Fellows can become the next generation of leaders shaping policy in their countries.

Future policy leaders need the skills to translate their research into clear and actionable messages.


Alumni address how the program has taught them to think differently about how they present their work to stakeholders outside of academia.




Many of IDEA’s Policy Communication Fellows have become leaders around the world. They report that the skills learned through the fellowship have been invaluable in their work in academia, government, civil society, and in bilateral and donor organizations.

Alumni regularly use their policy communication skills to influence health and population policies in their countries and around the world. They frequently speak with and present to policy audiences, including ministries of health, population, and finance, national family planning councils, and economic and health-focused research centers. Through these venues, alumni from all 28 years of the program have informed policies such as national reproductive health strategic plans and national social protection policies.

Fellows have presented at many international venues, including the African Union in Ethiopia.
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Evelyn Sakeah, Ph.D., shares her experience influencing the president of Ghana to improve maternal health.
Eliya Zulu, Ph.D., established the African Institute for Development Policy, a think tank that promotes using research in policymaking.
Rifat Hasan, Ph.D. (on right) now works as a health specialist at the World Bank where she regularly communicates with policymakers about research.



PRB’s experience training young researchers shed many insights into how to best nurture the next generation of experts who can influence policy change for family planning and reproductive health, including:

  • Teaching researchers to influence policies requires a strategic effort to strengthen communication skills. Through academic training, Policy Fellows focus on research methodology and communicating their expertise within their discipline, but are rarely taught to communicate with nontechnical audiences. An intentional effort to learn the skills necessary to translate specialized knowledge for policy audiences helps Fellows bridge this gap so that as future leaders they are equipped to inform change outside of academia.
  • Training researchers in policy communication empowers them to have a larger impact. Policy Fellows alumni know that it is not enough to collect the data. They must successfully communicate their findings and recommendations to the right audiences to produce lasting change.
  • Research on how to influence policy is improving, helping researchers refine their approaches for increased impact. We now have more information than ever about what makes effective policies and how research can influence the policy process, creating more opportunities for Policy Fellows to use data to encourage evidence-based decisionmaking.
  • Policymakers are increasingly connected. They are aware of events worldwide and making decisions based on information transmitted through mass media and electronic communications. PRB Policy Fellows can harness the internet and social media to influence policy change.
Fellows from the 2012 workshop pose in front of the USAID office.