Learning Area 3: Audiences

Which stakeholders and communities do we need to engage?


Development organisations need to promote profound change (Learning Area 1) as part of a broad societal partnership (Learning Area 2). This means reaching out to new stakeholders and communities.

One useful way to group and prioritise among audiences is by their function. Targeting the mobilisers, for example, can help organisations reach broad segments of society and promote action for sustainable development. Targeting the watchdogs can help organisations meet their commitment to accountability and build public trust in development work.

Development communicators also need to break the concept of “the general public” down into more meaningful audience segments, for example by understanding their different lifestyles, values and attitudes to sustainable development.

Infographic - Key audiences for development communicators


Communicators need to identify mobilisers and influencers with powerful stories to tell and reach deep into specific communities. In the SDG era, key mobilisers include:

  • Civil society organisations, reaching into communities & putting the SDGs into practice.
  • Cities & local authorities, translating global goals into local contexts.
  • Schools & universities, producing development knowledge & engaging future generations.
  • Businesses & foundations, engaging CEOs, shareholders, consumers & philanthropists.

Communicators need to address those seeking facts and data about how development funds are spent, and whether development organisations are delivering results. The watchdogs include:

  • Parliaments, overseeing the expenditure of taxpayer funds.
  • Civic activists, pressuring organisations to deliver on sustainable development.
  • Media organisations, uncovering development stories in the interests of their audiences.
  • International partners, expecting development organisations to uphold agreements.

In addition to different stakeholder groups, development communicators often identify “the general public” as an audience. Some go a step further by saying they seek to engage “youth”. These concepts are not helpful enough when it comes to designing communications strategies.

Today’s communicators have the tools and data – surveys, social media analytics etc. – to develop a much more refined set of audience profiles. Besides socio-demographic factors, such profiles can take into consideration, for example, people’s differing attitudes to sustainable development, lifestyles and personal interests, moral values and preferences, and media habits.


  1.  Consider the following approaches to develop profiles and understand audiences:
    1. Based on whether citizens have conducted one or more of ten activities, the Development Engagement Lab divides them into six different groups, ranging from “fully engaged” to “negatively engaged”.
    2. By examining people’s values (e.g. family-focused / change-oriented / preference for control / freedom), Glocalities divides people into “challengers”, “conservatives”, “socializers”, “creatives”, “achievers”.
  1. Explore the 2017 OECD DevCom Survey on Public Attitudes Research to see how DevCom members use public attitudes research to segment audiences.
  1. Visit the DevCom website for summaries of recent DevCom discussions on specific stakeholder groups, including:
    1. Civic activists and journalists: discussed at the 2019 Annual Meeting.
    2. Parliamentarians: Joint Evalnet-DevCom Session at the 2019 Annual Meeting.
    3. Businesses: 2018 Joint DevCom-EMnet Workshop on Businesses as SDG Advocates.


In 2017, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation used Facebook and Spotify data to understand and engage young people in its Save Tropical House campaign, building awareness about rain forest degradation and producing a video with more than 1.3 million views.