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Comms tips for the new development framework

28 February 2013
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The deadline for the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching. We have just under 2 years to achieve all 8 goals, and while there has been great progress on eradicating poverty, many of the others now appear woefully unattainable. So, in a world that seems increasingly unstable economically, environmentally and socially, what are the lessons to be learned from the MDGs, and how can these feed into the current processes underway to create a post 2015 development agenda?

It’s difficult to critique such an admirable and necessary initiative, which attempts to address such complex issues, without coming out the other side looking like a bit of a jerk. There are no easy solutions when tackling poverty, gender equality, environmental stability and maternal health to name but a few. So I’m going to do what we do best here at Forster and stick to giving those creating the next development framework: the high level panel of 26 committee members creating a “development mission”, the working group for the Sustainable Development Goals; an off shoot of the Rio +20 convention, and Ban himself, some comms tips.

Tip 1. Keep it simple.

Despite many criticisms of the MDGs, such as their unrealistic goals or top down inception, as a concept they have been astonishingly successful because the message and the format it was delivered in was clear and simple. Almost anyone can reel off at least a couple of the MDGs, this is huge in a sometimes disengaged society.

Tip 2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

At worst you’ll lose your credibility, at best you’ll look rather silly. A perfect example of this is the ‘make poverty history’ campaign. As an idea it’s excellent, it inspired the public in a way individual charities or aid agencies couldn’t and created a global movement committed to the concept. But it couldn’t deliver what it promised, interest in it fizzled out and some of those behind the campaign have now moved on to ‘IF’. It’s undoubtedly a less inspiring campaign name, but wholly more reasonable and responsible. Be careful not to disillusion your support base.

Tip 3. Integrate your campaign communications.

‘IF’ has fallen foul on this one – while Christian Aid, Unicef and Oxfam are all taking part in the same campaign, they seem to have promoted the importance of their own brand over that of the campaign, reducing the effectiveness of the communication.

Tip 4. Engage with your stakeholders.

The first time round the MDGs were “concocted by the elite” and somewhat foisted on developing countries through aid programmes; this time round it’s different. The 26 member committee is diverse, including members from civil society, governments and the private sector from varying countries and the chair and co chairs, Ban Ki Moon, David Cameron, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, are a rather multicultural bunch. Hopefully this will result in diverse views being represented. Taking it one step further, members of the public are encouraged to engage with the process through commenting on reports submitted by the committee here.