The Development Element: Guidelines for the future of communicating about the end of global poverty

One of the hardest things when I developed the curriculum for “International Development Communications” at Georgetown this last semester was that there was no one place where my students and I could be guided in answering our key question:

How can a new generation of communications professionals embrace nuance without turning the public off? (After all, nonprofits are competing against cat videos!)

The Development ElementSo we made our own reference, and are sharing it with you below.

Over the course of the semester, students brought communications “products” to class (e.g. articles, annual reports) to apply and hone a set of criteria that merged the elements of sound communications and the fundamental concepts of international development – to separate the wheat from the chaff.

They found that the days of international development communications, where the key responsibilities were writing press releases and annual reports for donors that portray “voiceless” and “powerless” people, is over.

What’s next? “The Development Element” shares the insights of the next generation of international development communicators and 11 approaches for doing #IntlDevComms differently!

Please do share your vision for the future of #IntlDevComms in the comments section!

We will continue to share and promote this publication throughout the wider international development community. If your team or organization would like to engage further by hosting a discussion, staff training, etc, please be in touch at jenlentfer (at) gmail (dot) com.


Related Posts

Check out this series of seven blog posts from my International Development Communications students at Georgetown University’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications Masters Program. 

  1. The double-edge sword of mass communications: Is stereotyping inevitable?
  2. Knowing when (and why) to stop and listen
  3. America’s budding professionals: Well-traveled and ready to save the world
  4. Are you a humanitarian? Why?
  5. 6 ways to keep your nonprofit spark lit
  6. The OAS in the time of reform: Stories’ role in institutional change
  7. 5 pulse-checks before clicking ‘publish’ on #globaldev communications


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  3. Nice doc – especially the checklist, Jennifer. I especially like that you highlighted the role of learning from failure as well as success (that donors are open?!) and that who’s really driving are our ultimate clients (not just we ‘experts’. May skillful communications build momentum on both!

  4. These are great! I keep being told that communications in international development is purely PR for more funds. I think organisations have a great opportunity to re-brand themselves as thoughtful and to really encourage the general public to think more critically about global issues. One of the things that I’ve been reading a lot about is communicating failure to audiences. Some organisations for example Engineers Without Borders Canada have been publishing a Failure Report for some years now, which shows real willingness to question themselves and the impact they are having, while also giving them the ability to becoming much more innovative in the long run.

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  6. Seana Wilkerson

    This is amazing!! I started noticing these same short comings in development/aid communications in 2011 and ended up writing my masters dissertation on the subject. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one. I too had a very difficult time finding legitimate research and literature on the subject at that time. From 2012-2014 I was working on the corporate side, in Diversity Communications but have maintained a great interest in the global and grassroots aspects too. How can I continue to learn and contribute to this subject from Kansas City??

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