If you work in the Communications area of a Third Sector institution, I’m sure we share very similar challenges: lean budgets, reduced teams and increasing barriers to fundraising. And yet we need to engage collaborators, volunteers, beneficiaries and influencers, so that the cause we fight for is always in evidence. Digital transformation has brought powerful tools for bringing our work together and disseminating it, but it has also caused serious problems of fragmentation and polarization of society.
As a global society, we are witnessing economic, environmental and social crises. In many countries, citizens show signs that they distrust institutions, whether those of the State itself or those of mediation between society and the State – such as Third Sector entities. But how does the creation of true walls for dialogue affect day-to-day communication?
If the extremes are committed to seeing only one side of the world, there is no room for dialogue. Causes linked to the construction of a more democratic, fair and environmentally sustainable society end up being overshadowed by the “us against them” discourse. Finally, the communication journey embraces the same people, which directly affects how we should relate to society.
The role of communication
The study Flow of Causes, of Instituto Arapyaú and partner foundations explains the Cause Communication What “all efforts to put an issue on society’s agenda, mobilize converts, win over the indifferent and influence decision-makers with the aim of changing social, cultural, economic and environmental reality through public awareness and changes in public policies”. The communication area should be a protagonist in all Third Sector organizations precisely because it promotes social changes. But this is a slow process, which involves cycles of listening, learning and sharing – paying attention to what is happening around you, digesting what has been captured and proposing changes.
Building bridges and dialogues
Ciro Marcondes Filho define dialog like a happy encounter between two intentions […] coming from the creation of a common environment in which both sides participate and extract from their participation something new, unexpected, that was not in either of them.. A genuine exchange that shows a real interest in the other. As an institution of the Third Sector, we were born with different purposes. But they all meet in the deep desire to love and care for people – whether in schools, hospitals, youth training centers, homes for the elderly or any other.
It is institutionally inclusive and aggregating in nature. We need to make an effort to find balance points in the communication process, understanding the different perspectives of life of each of our stakeholders. And yes, this is a corporate and individual effort, as each of us is also immersed in this polarized world.
For all this, it is extremely challenging to do cause communication these days. in the e-book Communication of causes: reflections and provocations for new narratives, Fundação Tide Setúbal joins Instituto Alana and the Narrativas network to discuss what changes we need to make in approaching our causes and beliefs to avoid polarization and how we can dialogue. The material provides precious tips for Third Sector entities to plan their actions so that the communication journey embraces groups guided by values different from ours.
First, it’s important to look at the questions that can guide the answers. For example, what changes do we need to make in addressing our causes and beliefs to avoid polarization? Or what values are able to bring us closer and generate points of contact in the search for transformation? AND when communicating a cause, how can we dialogue with groups guided by values different from ours?
Returning to the study findings Flow of Causes, it is necessary to explore new doors to engage citizens in a cause according to their availability in the era of the “attention economy”. People want to talk and not just listen, but they need to have attractive channels to do so. Civil society organizations need to be more flexible and value communication as an intrinsic part of promoting the causes they defend.
Another key point is to connect with people’s everyday experiences. Seek alternatives that allow contact and proximity beyond social networks, with face-to-face actions and practices in the community in which the institution operates. Enabling listening can allow you to discover what barriers prevent communication from reaching the target audience. Or even what changes need to be made so that the cause your institution defends is better understood by groups that are always opposed or reactive.
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