On the Media: Reframing the Message

May 4, 2015

Original article found on: DEEEP

Reframing the Message” is an EU-supported training and communication project implemented by three organizations in three European countries. The participating organizations are Wilde Ganzen from the Netherlands, Divoké Husy from Czech Republic and CISU – Civil Society in Development from Denmark. The three organizations’ joint application was approved by the EU in the autumn of 2012.

The project aims to strengthen the communication on development for the civil society organizations of these three countries so it reflects the structural causes of poverty in a balanced manner. The object is to produce reliable and respectful communication that will affect the citizen’s commitment to development cooperation.

“Reframing the Message” serves as best practice example on how to work ‘hands on’ with civil society organizations and their communication. It is a practical take on the various initiatives such as DEEEP4 that aims to challenge and change the existing paradigm on development.
During the two-years-project period we have found great inspiration from DARE Forum’s DEEEP project.

What paradigm was challenged? The old aid and charity paradigm which reproduces an unequal balance of power with a strong giver to a grateful receiver: the main storyline is roughly that the developing countries and their populations are perceived as poor dependent wretches with no ability to change their own way of life.

What new paradigm was developed? While civil society organisations have, through “Reframing the Message”, rejected the old paradigm, defining a new paradigm has proved more difficult.
However, a new European focus on the Global South as strong and independent communicators and storytellers has arisen. Organisations have started to listen to these voices and a new paradigm could potentially emerge from a global dialogue between citizens.

What did we learn? Across three participating countries we learned that we can address change from a practical point of view and start bottom-up with each CSO and their communication.

What is the next step? As the project expires in spring 2015, next step is not discussing what should be “reframed” but instead uniting across organizations and countries to engage citizens in global matters – like DEEEP4 works to do.

An overall objective and two specific objectives were formulated for the project:

  • Overall objective: To change the attitude towards development cooperation among the general public through a large number of small and medium sized development organisations and groups that stress the progress made in reaching the MDGs, while depicting the need for structural change.
  • Specific objective 1: Build the capacity of these organisations in order for them to better communicate ‘Best News’ and take stronger action.
  • Specific objective 2: To achieve synergy between the three project partners through exchange of ideas, best practices and joint methodologies.

Components in the project

During the two-years-project period “Reframing the Message” offered the following activities for the participating organisations and to a larger audience:

  • A variety of different trainings, workshops and presentations. On communication strategy, storytelling, social media, smartphone as a monitoring tool, efficient websites and press work – capacity building was a key component in the project.
  • Developing an online communication toolkit in Dutch and English to be used by civil society organisations and their partners in the Global South.
  • A sub-granting pool where organisations were allocated 2,000 euro to test their new skills and approach to communication and fundraising.
  • A competition on communication products and plans in connection with a counselling program with professional communication advisors.
  • Stakeholder meetings every year in each of the three countries.
  • Raising public debate on the subject.
  • Establishing a national network for development education.
  • National actions for the “World’s Best News” campaign.

What went well

All in all the project was a success. Both in matter of project planning across three countries but certainly also in matter of participants, debate and a possible new discourse. This is what we would highlight:

  • Engaging a large number of active citizens from a variety of civil society organizations.
  • Finding a practical and ‘hands on’ approach to telling stories about developing countries.
  • The three project countries working closely with the civil society organizations and developing the project in relation to their context in order to create deeper impact.
  • Starting a buzz and maintaining the discussion on development education amongst practitioners in the three countries.
  • Establishing and using the synergy between three organisations in three countries connecting and challenging each other – also in connection with other international initiatives as DEEEP4 and The Smart CSOs Lab.

Which challenges are still to be faced?

Although we did several attempts to get the larger organisations on board we found it difficult  connecting to the organisations dependent on private fundraising – especially regarding their fundraising campaigns where the hard-hitting argument seemed to be “but photos of starving children is what get people to donate money”. Future challenges will be:

  • Engaging the large international organisations in the discourse.
  • Identifying and developing synergy between fundraising and communication in a constructive way (instead pointing fingers at each other’s shortcomings).
  • Continually to cultivate and support the national and transnational networks initiated by Reframing the Message.

Original article found on: DEEEP

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