“How hard can it be?” we thought when we first discussed our Communications for Social Change handbook.
Oh, the hubris!
Multiple versions, three design houses and three years later, we present to you: Strategic Communications for Social Change, the remix.
Over the last decade, we have found that people know the purpose of communications by social change organisations is to enhance impact but they are unclear how this works on a practical level. Many organisations end up putting out communications that do a combination of raising awareness, brand building and reputation management. By doing everything, they achieve little.
So, our objective with our handbook was clear; we wanted to develop a handbook that introduced people to the strategic communications process in a way that made it practically applicable. This meant that we needed organisations to know how to drive awareness into impact and brand building into credibility.
The internet is full of strategic communications resources. But there isn’t one that is specific to the realities of social change work in East Africa. So, we designed one for ccommunity-based organisations with limited resources. It needed to show these organisations that their communications could be effective. This was at the heart of our process.
We had to know whether we got it right and last year in March we launched the draft handbook for testing. Testing came with something we could never have anticipated, covid-19. We intended to reach out to some partners, go to them and help them work through it. In truth only one girls’ empowerment movement in Kilifi, Kenya got to experience this approach because a week after the launch Kenya went into lockdown. Most of East Africa followed suit within days. That testing approach was no longer an option – time for a rethink.
Well disguised as it was, it still turned out a blessing – it allowed the handbook to be tested exactly how we envisioned it being used: organisations trying it out on their own and letting us know their experience. WMS also had the opportunity to take some partners through the handbook on Zoom. We learned a lot about the content and got the chance to meet people we had never worked with before.
Had we been in the room explaining the handbook we might never have noticed the comprehension gaps. This testing approach yielded amazing clarity on what needed to be rewritten in the handbook – and in some cases chunks of text had to be moved, reordered or deleted.
Using this feedback, we have spent the last three months completely reworking the handbook with the team at Sirnare and cannot wait to share the final handbook with you. The testing version is no longer available but if you downloaded it, hold on to it. When we launch it on Monday March 1, get the final version and see the differences.
This time we think we’ve got it right. Do let us know @WMSComms and also tell a friend to tell a friend. We simply cannot wait to hear your experiences of using the handbook!