A guest post by Judith Madigan, co-founder and director of BrandOutLoud.
The development sector in The Netherlands has been captivated by ‘Reframing the Message’, an EU-funded cross-sectoral program about global development communications that started two years ago in the Czech Republic, Denmark, and The Netherlands. It touches on the dilemma of how to get the public involved with development cooperation without being too simplistic in our communication and fundraising efforts.
At BrandOutLoud we have been following closely the program, which was hosted by the Dutch NGO Wilde Ganzen. We participated by providing several presentations, workshops, in-house consultations and debates.
A final debate closing the two years was held last month – looking at the past, present and future. However, during this debate and many other occasions, the question was asked: Where is the voice of ‘the South’? Because reframing matters to grassroots organisations, the local partners of the various international NGOs in developing countries. Even more so, it is their message.
Framing is strongly linked with (core) values. Your story. Your brand. Like Reinanke Haagsma of MDF Training and Consultancy pointed out in Vice Versa [Dutch]: “The Dutch debate of ‘reframing’ has moved in this direction, instead of remaining a discussion of a ‘fashion police’.” Rather than just focusing on the images that organizations use to portray their work, it is about thinking and working from your core values – and daring to stand for – in everything you do.
Though, this is not only a concern for large international NGOs. Small organisations can need a brand also strongly linked to their values. The local human rights organisation One Family People is one of them. In collaboration with Liliane Fonds and International Child Development Initiatives, the Sierra Leonean organisation worked with BrandOutLoud’s team on their brand and communications in 2014.
‘Voice of the South’
Coming back to the question about ‘the voice of the South’. In Sierra Leone, Hadiatou Diallo of One Family People responds to this debate:
“Our encounter [with BrandOutLoud] has changed me and my organisation and has given me courage that we are on the right path.
“For me it has inspired me to know that…small local organisation should be strengthened with the right communications tools to tell their innovative stories to the outside world and touch the heart of their current and potential supporters.”
Empowering by Branding
And that is why at BrandOutLoud we’ll continue to strive to put local organizations at the centre when it comes to communications in global development. Moreover, we believe that change happens from within, at the grassroots level. Our work means that people like Hadiatou Diallo can more widely share their own story – showing the way they want to present and promote themselves.
To the international NGOs who are thinking about how to ‘reframe the message,’ I say, give your local partners the chance. See how they will spread their wings and fly.
Judith Madigan is the co-founder and director of BrandOutLoud. Currently, the BrandOutLoud team is on-site in Haiti, where they are working with the local network organisation CRECH on their branding and communications. This collaboration was established through the linking efforts of Woord en Daad. Stay tuned about this project via Facebook and Twitter.