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Event Summary: DevCom and Chill – Public Engagement on the Couch?

Events and festivals are great places to engage citizens for sustainable development. So what do you do when your events are cancelled because of a global pandemic?

Events and festivals are great places to engage citizens for sustainable development. So what do you do when your events are cancelled because of a global pandemic?  At our DevCom & Chill meeting on 9 June, senior communicators from 15 development institutions told us how they were adapting their events and campaigns to a new reality.


The COVID-19 crisis has kept development communicators busy and seen them reflect on their messaging. It has also brought logistical challenges: all participants said they had events affected by COVID-19.

While some organisations have cancelled events, more of them have responded by shifting events online (see graph). There is a sense of urgency and opportunity in development communications today. When, if not now, can we make the case for international co-operation and solidarity? And, if we want to “build back better”, then now is the time to mobilise audiences into action. It’s make-or-break time.

One way for communicators to seize this opportunity is to get behind the UN’s #ActNow and EU’s #2030IsNow campaigns.[1] Both of these campaigns will aim to engage citizens – especially young audiences – more actively, using a range of innovative communications tools and platforms.

Meanwhile, DevCom members and partners are also preparing national-level campaigns and events. In France, digital ambassador Elyx is teaching commuters all about the SDGs. In Italy, the 2020 Rimini Meeting will take place entirely online. As part of Germany’s forthcoming EU Council Presidency, the Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) launched a #SmartDevelopmentHack


Participants shared their latest plans for 2020. Based on their ideas, here are three ways to get creative and engage citizens online for sustainable development.

1. Challenge & Gamify

Challenge your audiences to make commitments, show them what they can do, and how they perform in relation to others. This is the aim of the #ActNow Bot and (forthcoming) mobile app.

2. Inspire & Entertain

Have celebrities and role models spread the word. AFD’s new podcast features stories from inspiring young change-makers around the word, and has continued its partnership with the Angoulême comic book festival. To reach younger audiences, some DevCom members are considering new social media platforms like TikTok.

3. Interact & Enable

Don’t just broadcast: make your digital platforms interactive, and provide opportunities for audiences to create their own sharable content. The #2030IsNow campaign will feature an interactive digital wall this year, inspired the physical wall displayed at festivals last year. The Verified Initiative invites people to become “information volunteers”.

This was the second meeting in the DevCom Zooms In series. The first event on 26 May focused on how COVID-19 has affected development messaging. For further information about this series of events, please please email us at

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