Building Staff Capacities to Communicate

 
While working for UNDP and other international development organizations in various capacities, such as in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007 under a UNDP contract to support the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, or in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2014, also as a part of UNDP, I developed various resources and presentations to build the capacities of local staff to communicate.

In these communications roles, my job isn't only to produce outreach materials and to undertake outreach activities myself; in fact, I place a much greater emphasis in my work on building the local staff's capacities for undertaking outreach activities themselves. Marketing and public relations is never just one person's responsibility at an organization, regardless of everyone's job titles; everyone at an organization will interact with other staff, partner organizations, potential supporters and the general public at some point, and therefore, everyone needs to be able to talk or to write clearly about his or her own work and that of the organization overall.

But communications in the field, and building the capacities of local staff regarding communications, is easier said than done.

In Afghanistan, for instance, I saw that female government workers were profoundly reluctant to speak up in a working group, let alone present to an audience of co-workers - yet they were regularly asked to do these things as a part of their job. For women to succeed in the workplace anywhere, they must feel confident speaking in meetings or to groups. I created a workshop for women to help them improve their public speaking skills, and to create this workshop, I researched women teachers and public figures in various Islamic countries and cultures, including in Afghan history, and contacted several Muslim women's groups with a large Internet presence for advice, to get information to include in the workshop. The Afghan government has made a commitment to equality for women in Afghanistan: in the Afghanistan Constitution, women are protected equally before the law, and as stated in the Afghanistan Compact, The National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan is to increase women's chances of working in government and public service. Therefore, I felt I had an Afghan-government-mandate, and I made sure to refer to the Constitution and the Compact at the start of the presentation (and did so at the start of any report if I thought there might be any doubt that what I was writing or saying was appropriate, from a cultural perspective). I also relied on my assistant, a local Afghan woman, to help me phrase things properly, and I put her in charge of creating the design around my words, and editing those words as necessary, in the slide show presentation and including culturally-appropriate photos. You can download the slide presentation (200 KB).

In Ukraine, promoting messages regarding peace could have been interpreted by many Ukrainians as a call to not respond to Russian-supported military actions in various parts of Ukraine and to not respond to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, something most Ukrainians are not willing to consider. That meant being very careful in how, say, the UN's International Day of Peace was observed / talked about. A negative reaction by a colleague to the word reconciliation lead me to blog about how I needed a different word, because, as I say on my blog, it's "become a loaded term, a political term, an undesirable term. To many, it means appeasement to an oppressor or abuser. It means to relinquish any demands for justice for atrocities committed." And a Ukrainian colleague balked at the idea of monitoring a media outlet that is notorious for its biased reporting; he could not understand that reading this media outlets tweets each day did not constitute endorsing their viewpoint but, rather, would help him in creating strategies to counter misinformation. 

With those challenges in mind, here are some of the communications-related resources I've developed to help various organizations in or serving developing countries specifically to help build the capacities of local staff regarding communications.

You are welcomed to adapt my materials as you like, but please credit me somewhere in your presentation, web page or document if you use material from these. Also, note that most of these are NOT official documents or strategies of any of the organizations named; these are my recommendations to those organizations, my opinions based on my expertise, but it was up to those organizations as to whether or not they used these in their official strategies - if at all:

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The art work and material on this site was created and is copyrighted 1996-2017
by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved
(unless noted otherwise, or the art comes from a link to another web site).