If you work in the Communication 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 employees, volunteers, beneficiaries and influencers, so that the cause we fight for is always in evidence. The digital transformation has brought powerful tools to bring our work closer together and disseminate 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 creating real walls for dialogue affect everyday communication?
If 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 discourse of “us against them”. Finally, the communication journey embraces the same people, which directly affects how we should relate to society.
The leading role of communication
The study Causes Flow, Instituto Arapyaú and partner foundations explains the Cause Communication What “all efforts to place an issue on society’s agenda, mobilize converts, win over the indifferent and influence decision makers with the objective of changing the social, cultural, economic and environmental reality through public awareness and changes in public policies”. The communication area must be a protagonist in all Third Sector organizations precisely because it promotes social changes. But this is a slow process, involving cycles of listening, learning and sharing – paying attention to what’s going on around you, digesting what’s been captured and proposing changes.
Building bridges and dialogues
Ciro Marcondes Filho define dialogue as a happy meeting 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 each other. As a Third Sector institution, we were born with different purposes. But they all find themselves in a deep desire for love and care for people – whether in schools, hospitals, youth training centres, homes for the elderly or whatever.
It is institutionally inclusive and aggregating 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 these reasons, it is extremely challenging to communicate the cause these days. in the e-book Communication of causes: reflections and provocations for new narratives, the Tide Setúbal Foundation joins the Alana Institute and the Narrativas network to discuss what changes we need to make in addressing our causes and beliefs to avoid polarization and how we can dialogue. The material provides valuable 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 responses. For example, what changes do we need to make in addressing our causes and beliefs to avoid polarization? Or which values are able to bring us closer and generate contact points in the search for transformation? AND when communicating a cause, how to dialogue with groups oriented by values different from ours?
Returning to the study findings Causes Flow, 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. Search for 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 your 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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