The Communication Initiative Networks
convening the communication and media development, social and behaviour change community
From: Warren Feek
Hi and Happy New Year by the Gregorian calendar. This is the time for New Year’s wishes and resolutions of course. Much strength and support for your important work. At The Communication Initiative we have a rather intermittent tradition of issuing some New Years wishes. These wishes are a little bit late of course but that has been part of the tradition!
My wish this year relates to the words that I would really like to hear (and use) much less in 2020 when compared to how often I heard them (and used them!) in 2019 and before. Which words do you want to hear less frequently in the Development context, and why? Feel free to reply to this email or to post your submission on the platform at the link above. Mine are in English, but please share in any language you want.
My nominations for words to HEAR LESS – please!
“TARGET” – As in “the priority population targeted is …” Of course, the military connotation and imagery is a concern. But even if we accept a broader non-shooting understanding of “target”, there are still issues. Is it good Development principle and practice for one group (often the one with the money and influence) to target another group (often those experiencing the issues in question) to undertake a change identified by the former group?
“MESSAGE” – As in “the message we are delivering is …” Hands up if you like being in effect told what to do and following through on that pronouncement from someone by doing the action they say you should. That you accept and implement THEIR message. Not likely. So why are we hung up on messages?
“SOCIAL and BEHAVIOUR CHANGE” – As in … well … “social and behaviour change”. Such phrasing makes those two very different processes look the same and provides the excuse for those doing straight individual behaviour change to claim they do social change as well, and vice versa.
Alternative: Social change and behaviour change (Note to self – change wording on The CI platform! – Ouch!)
“PILOT” – As in “we are funding this pilot project”. What percentage of the Development effort is consumed by small-scale pilot work that ends up going nowhere – not because these initiatives do not prove to be of value but because there is no more funding for full-scale action? Or the key decision-maker for those funds changes and a new direction begins? This dynamic seems to really affect our common field of work.
Alternative: At the scale required
“WHAT” – As in “What we need to do is …” We have a real tendency in Development, including the communication for development (C4D)and social change, and behavior change field, to jump to WHAT we will do. Let’s do a soap opera. Let’s do a radio chat show. Let’s do a campaign. Let’s strengthen our social media work. Etc. If there is no WHY before the what, then the what, whatever it is, will likely be unproductive.
Alternative: Why and how
“MEDIA DEVELOPMENT” – As in … well … “media development” when applied to only one part of the media, the news media, and the traditional journalism-driven news media at that. Media is huge, complex, varied and in a constant organic state. So, we need to be much more specific.
Alternatives: News media development, entertainment media development, social media development, journalist-driven media development, community media development, and other specific terms.
“AUDIENCE” – As in “Our priority audience is …” We are in the engagement, network, dialogue, debate, and critical review era. Audiences are so passé. Why do we still tend to see people directly affected by a Development issue as an audience just passively sitting there awaiting the development experts’ wisdom
Alternative: People to engage
“EVIDENCE BASED” or “RESULTS DRIVEN“. As in “What results and evidence prove this works?” Sounds great, logical and rational. But we all know that most policy, strategy, and funding decisions and choices are not exclusively based, or even substantially influenced in many cases, by proven results or credible evidence. It is much more complex than that: from government policies to decision-maker interests; historical relationships to trade-offs; built-in biases to organisational reputation; and technological trends to (insert your example).
“SUSTAINABLE” As in “is this work ’sustainable’?” Please send your best understanding of what is “sustainable” in a Development context. Organisations get a maximum of 5 years of funding and then must have their own non-funder revenue? Of course not. The work has Government support? Again, no. Local communities assume full responsibility … well, no. The changes made and initiatives developed last a long time – maybe… but how will we know, and is a long time a good thing? There are plenty of other possibilities that also make little sense. So what does sustainable mean? If we do not know, let’s use this term much less.
“ORGANISATIONAL REVIEW” – As in “sorry… we are in the midst of a review of the whole organisation so cannot make any commitments at this time”. Puts important decisions on hold for often confusing reasons. How many organisational reviews can some organisations undertake? Many big ones seem to lurch from one strategic review to the next, with barely an action taken or synapses firing in between.
Alternative: We only do full organisational reviews every 5 years so we can make a decision on your ideas/proposals.
And, finally, one with the pungent whiff of self-interest but also high relevance to many of you I am sure: In 2020, I want to hear much less often from very wealthy development organisations, some with budgets in the billions and hundreds and perhaps thousands of staff, this phrase …
“I AM SORRY WE HAVE NO MONEY” – aaaarrrggghhhh!
Alternative: YES! (Ha – maybe not but this is the time of year for optimism!)
Please do send (email reply or direct on the link below) and share your words and phrases, in any language, that you wish to hear less of in 2020 than in 2019 and before.
Much strength and support for an excellent 2020. Very much look forward to your nominations of the words you would like to hear less.
Some examples of past New Years “Greetings” posts with The CI network:
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Jan 28 2020 – 7:40pm