Social Accountability Media Initiative Workshop Builds Skills for Advocacy Impact
Lights! Camera! … Practice…
T.R. Lansner, Social Accountability Media Initiative Project Director
Nairobi, April 2, 2015
Under camera lights’ bright glare and the critical gaze of an unrelenting interviewer, the “hot seat” grew visibly uncomfortable for several social accountability advocates visiting Nairobi last week.
Happily, these interviews were practice, part of the inaugural Social Accountability Media Initiative [SAMI] Workshop at the new Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications [GSMC]. SAMI’s aim is to build civil society skills for better collaboration with media to advance social accountability—which enhances civic engagement and builds public trust to ensure better public institutions and improved public services.
“Media and civil society organisations are natural partners in promoting progress,” said GSMC Dean Michael Meyer. “This meeting contributes to what we call social impact journalism—relevant and reliable information that makes a real difference in the lives of real people.”
Representatives from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre [Uganda], CARE Malawi, Concern Universal [Mozambique], Malawi Economic Justice Network, and SEND-Ghana—all partners in the Global Partnership for Social Accountability [GPSA] of the World Bank)—gathered at GSMC from 23-27 March for the SAMI Workshop.
Lack of drugs in clinics, lack of textbooks in schools, lack of potable water to communities—these are among crucial issues these groups strive to address in their home countries, matters for which media exposure can make the public more aware and service providers more accountable.
Translating ‘NGO-speak’ like “non-performing contracts” and “sustainable engagement” to messages both media and the public can quickly grasp was at times challenging.
Tony Milanzi of the MEJN said he will be focusing on “Message formulation to turn what we do every day into newsworthy material,” noting that the facilitators “conveyed to us again and again that ‘NGOese’ is a language that not everyone understands.” Yvonne Mmangisa of CARE Malawi reinforced this point: “Simplifying language in our presentations for every person out there to understand our work,” she said, was her most valuable learning.
Participants discussed formulating clear and concise messages for specific audiences that describe the problem, suggest solutions, and—crucially—demand action. This was carried into drafting media releases, mock interviews, and adapting material to social media platforms. The group tweeted at a newly-conjured hashtag of #buildtrustact.
“This was a good opportunity to learn how to relate to the media while keeping in mind who your target audience is,” said SEND-Ghana Communications Officer Pascal Kudiabor.
“Every advocacy opportunity is immensely valuable,” SAMI Project Director Thomas R. Lansner and Workshop co-facilitator observed. “These social accountability advocates showed they can convey their messages with power and passion by combining hard evidence with stories of real people.”
The Workshop was co-facilitated by veteran former BBC reporter and editor Joseph Warungu, who offered participants both keen media insights and the experience of being on the sharp end of an interview.
Participants also joined a Roundtable on the Role of Media and Communications in Promoting Social Accountability at GSMC on 27 March, which was attended by Kenyan and international representatives of media, business and civil society. They urged media to partner with them to address critical development and governance challenges by providing better information and fostering debate on public trust and accountability.
The Social Accountability Media Initiative is a GSMC project developed in collaboration with GPSA and support from the Aga Khan Foundation USA. The next SAMI workshop will gather social accountability advocates from Bangladesh, the Kyrgyz Republic and Mongolia at the University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, in late April.
“The GPSA helps citizens have a voice, helps governments have an ear, and through a close collaboration with them, media, and the private sector, helps public institutions respond to citizens’ demands,” said GPSA Program Manager Roby Senderowitsch.
Several participants from both the Nairobi and the upcoming Bishkek SAMI Workshops will attend the GPSA's 2nd Global Partners Forum in Washington, DC, 12-13 May 2015, where they should find excellent opportunities to practice their newly-honed advocacy skills.
Social Accountability Media Initiative
Developed and delivered by:
The Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC)
at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Nairobi,
in association with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), and
The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA),
a global partnership program within The World Bank Group