On 2 June, the Dóchas DevEd group is hosting a seminar on the question of how we can improve our communications on global development issues.
Entitled “Added-Values: promoting long-term public engagement in development”, this seminar tries to take up where the Dóchas AGM conference left off. It sees the “added value” of Irish NGOs as being our ability to engage with Irish society on matters relating to global justice and global development.
As those of you who attended the Dóchas AGM conference, or the Trócaire Leading Edge report conference (see also this video) know, there are rapid (and fundamental) changes taking place in our sector (see also this article on “Development’s Next Decade), where the very notion of development cooperation is being questioned.
In the absence of clear proof of the value-for-money of overseas aid programmes, or at least a weakness in the sector to report on outcomes rather than activities, in a time of economic recession, overseas aid is bound to come into the firing line of skeptical commentators and public alike.
The Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images & Messages is one attempt at providing a coherent, sector-wide response to the challenge to international development cooperation. By setting out clear principles and minimum standards, the Code tries to prevent a race-to-the-bottom among NGOs under pressure to raise funds from the general public.
But this is not enough. Our sector must learn to find new ways to engage Irish society, as opposed to simply raise money from it.
At the Dóchas AGM conference, Ed Rice challenged NGOs to become much more creative, and try to harness the power of social media to engage people in their work.
At the 2 June event, Martin Kirk, Head of Campaigns at Oxfam UK, and authors of the Common Cause report, will argue that NGOs will have to re-think their public communications, and base it not on the values of the NGO but on the mindsets and mental frames of those they want to engage. The aim is to turn donors into supporters, and “slacktivists” into agents for social change.
A timely challenge!