Element 2: Involve Dissemination Sources

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Colorful picture of gears interlocking, some small, some medium, some big.January 2011

According to NCDDR (the National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research), there are four elements of effective dissemination. We’ve just talked about the first element, involving your intended users. This resource page focuses on the second element, involving dissemination sources.

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The Meaning of “Dissemination Sources”

Let us clarify what we mean—or what NCDDR means!—by “dissemination sources.” The quote below will do just that. It’s from NCDDR’s 30-page guide called Developing an Effective Dissemination Plan.

Source(s): Identify the primary source or sources that each potential user group is already tied into or most respects as an information source. Consider ways to partner with these sources in your dissemination efforts. (2001, p. 9)

In other words, what NCDDR is suggesting as an effective element in your dissemination efforts is to partner with an organization or entity (or more than one) that your users trust and themselves use as an information source.

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Why Involve Others?

There are a number of reasons why it’s strategic to involve other dissemination sources in your dissemination efforts.

Research has shown that users are more likely to receive and use information that comes from a source they trust or see as credible. (Scullion, 2002; Southwest Regional Development Laboratory, 1996, 2001)

Hard-to-reach audiences are exactly that—-hard-to-reach. A source they already use to find reliable information knows just where to reach them, and how. And they’re receptive to messages from that source. They’ve listened in the past, have found the source trustworthy, and are more likely to be receptive to your message when it comes through this credible third party.

Partnering with a source viewed as credible by a user group you’d like to reach gives you a valuable assist, an immediate presumption of credibility of your own. Credibility by association, you might say. Someone trusted is vouching for your cause or your message.

Your dissemination source can help you tailor your message so that it resonates with recipients.

Your message is carried into the networks of others, not just via your own. You reach more people this way.

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Why Would Others Give You Such Access?

It’s asking a big favor: Will you help me get my message out to your network? Oh, and may I use your communication mechanisms (newsletter, website, mailing addresses)?

Why would another organization give you such access to a valued audience?

Mutual benefit, that’s why. You have something to offer that a prospective dissemination source considers helpful. Information. Expertise. Assistance you offer to their audience or to a mutual audience. A return favor, such as access to your network for initiatives of their own. Together, we can do so much…

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Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering Dissemination Sources

NCDDR (2001) poses a series of questions under the header “dissemination planning through answered questions” (p. 10). Ask (and answer!) questions such as these as a way to guide your dissemination planning with respect to the dissemination sources you might involve.

  • Is your project/organization perceived by user groups as an active information dissemination resource?
  • Would collaborating with another project, organization, association, or institution for dissemination purposes, strengthen the credibility and receptivity of your information?
  • Do users regard your project staff as highly knowledgeable resources in the project’s topical area?
  • Is your project “partnering” in any way with nationally recognized associations, institutions of higher education, or other entities in the scientific community?
  • Is your project collaborating with any other organization(s) or association(s) in order to use their current information networks and vehicles reaching one or more of your targeted audiences? (2001, p. 11)

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A Noteworthy Example

Here’s an example from NICHCY’s own files. It illustrates how powerful involving other dissemination sources can be in extending the reach and impact of your message.

In the past 5 years, we’ve collaborated with Univision, one of the most popular TV networks of the Spanish-speaking community. Univision’s goal was to produce several disability-focused programs and connect Spanish speakers in the United States with disability resources. NICHCY’s bilingual information specialist appeared on the programs as a disability expert, and NICHCY’s website and toll-free telephone number were listed.

Results? The phone began ringing off the hook with people asking for information and guidance. The number of visitors to our Spanish website skyrocketed. Alone, we could never have cultivated such an immediate visibility and credibility in the Spanish-speaking communities around the country. Univision was (and remains) an extraordinarily influential “dissemination source” for NICHCY. The fortunate truth is that everyone benefited by the association: Univision, NICHCY, and most certainly the thousands of Spanish speakers who called, wrote, or visited our website—and found the disability info they needed.

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Another Noteworthy Example

Here’s another “dissemination source” success story from NICHCY—this one relating to teachers. Teachers are one of our primary user groups. We are very interested in connecting them with the knowledge base on effective practices for educating children with disabilities.

Educators, of course, have their own favored networks and resources. It’s challenging to get the word out to this target group through other channels. So we’ve partnered over the years with the National Education Association (NEA), who has high visibility and credibility in the educator world.

It’s an exchange of help: NICHCY prepares and delivers materials for info packets used in NEA-conducted trainings around the country. In return, NEA includes messages about NICHCY in its newsletter, asks teachers to communicate with us regarding their interests and needs, and acts as an intermediary so that we might be connected directly to individual users and the collective wisdom of many minds. We are extremely pleased to have Dr. Patti Ralabate, Senior Policy Analyst at NEA, on NICHCY’s Advisory Board. She brings a critical “user group” voice to the table of all our planning and activities. Long may this association continue!

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And You?

Think about it. Who do you partner with to extend the reach of your credibility and message? Who would you like to have as a dissemination source? What user groups do you find challenging to reach and serve? Who could give you a hand?

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NOTICE: The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) is no longer in operation. Our funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) ended on September 30, 2013. Our website and all its free resources will remain available until September 30, 2014.