What should we aim to achieve through our communications efforts?
The goals of development communication are expanding beyond institutional visibility. Communications today is central to achieving core organisational and policy objectives.
This means that communicators need to aim for deeper knowledge among their audiences. They need to raise public awareness not just about the work of their organisations, but about sustainable development and international co-operation in general. They need to engage citizens by promoting action, changing attitudes, and seeking advice from a broad set of constituencies.
Some communicators still focus narrowly on institutional or brand visibility. However, achieving the SDGs requires citizens to have a deeper understanding of sustainable development and international co-operation. Without public support, development organisations will lose their license to operate and implement policy reforms. Communicators need to:
- Build hope. People who know that extreme poverty has fallen are much more hopeful for the future.
- Strengthen trust. Large majorities of people support aid spending, but they also think too much aid is lost to corruption.
- Promote SDG awareness. While people may have heard of the goals, many of them do not know what they are for.
Yet, awareness and positive attitudes are not enough. Communicators also need to help promote behavioural change among citizens and stakeholders. Their goals can include:
- More sustainable lifestyles. Worldwide, 4 in 5 consumers feel strongly that the companies they buy from should help to improve the environment.
- Public participation in policymaking. In a survey of 100 government leaders, 61% admitted they were not “very effectively” collecting feedback from communities.
- Changing norms. In 2018, DevCom focused on how campaigns can help promote gender equality and tackle discrimination against women and girls.
- Align your policy and communications goals. Ultimately, the aim of communications should be to help achieve sustainable development.
- Use DevCom’s work on Listening Architectures to identify specific goals and indicators.
- The Framework on Understanding Public Attitudes to Sustainable Development outlines potential goals in terms of awareness, attitudes and actions.
- The Overview of International Surveys maps out international survey data on public attitudes and awareness.
- Link up with the global education community, which has well-defined goals related to the knowledge needed for sustainable development and global citizenship, including SDG 4.7.
In 2019, the European Union’s #2030isNow campaign visited festivals across the continent to help citizens learn about the SDGs and the EU’s efforts to promote development.
In 2017, Canada decided to seek advice in the design of its Feminist Development Assistance Policy, hosting over 300 consultations and engaging 15,000 people around the world.
In its 2017 Voluntary National Review, Nigeria committed to large-scale awareness-raising campaigns designed to tackle gender discrimination.