The irresistible power of storytelling for organizations

“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more

#MeWeSyria: Youth-led storytelling for social change

The innovative programme, #MeWeSyria, empowers young Syrian refugees to share their narratives, voices and vision for change through storytelling and communications.

As highlighted in an article on the UNHCR Innovation website, the programme integrates therapeutic, artistic, and communications frameworks to develop self-awareness, promote recovery and wellbeing, and restore some control and hope in a world of chaos. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, these young people practice working in creative teams, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills, while honing their role as agents of change.

For example, youth in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are given video cameras to share their stories in creative ways. In the video below, young people film conversations between their future and present selves.

#MeWeSyria is so important for two key reasons. Firstly, by enabling young Syrian refugees to take the lead and tell their story through collaborative and creative ways, these young people can focus on hope, innovation and positive change. Furthermore, they help move the narrative on Syria away from extremism, loss, and helplessness towards healing, empathy, and resilience.

#MeWeSyria’s director, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, powerfully expands on this in an Al Jezeera feature story: “In the process of storytelling we find the ingredients of peace and of change-making and sustainable development. Because without empathy, without pluralism, without self-expression – without these things being taught and exercised by Syria’s youth – then you’re just going to have a camp filled with young children that are going further and further into isolation, and further and further into extremism.

When we look at the world right now, we see a world on fire. We see the failures promoted. We see those that have the microphone and yell the loudest, they have the control of the stage. And if we let this continue to happen – if we let those with evil intentions have the microphone, have control of the video – we’re going to lose and miss out on supporting and valuing young change-makers and the creative enterprise that exists among Syria’s youth.” Watch the video below.

In addition, the programme creates a platform and avenue for the rest of the world to empathize with, hear and share the stories of hope and peace from these young people. In the UNHCR article, the authors – Mohsin Mohi Ud Din and Michael Niconchuk – expand on this point quite eloquently: “Just as we pay special attention to tragedy, we, as their audience, should learn to listen better, nurture and value their hope, and take their successes, and not their sufferings, as a rallying cry to protect, support, and value their change-making lives.”

Indeed, as the authors note, “Youth are not just consumers or containers. They too are the creators and curators.”

Learn more about #MeWeSyria via the following links:

 

 

 

Social media for development: Q&A with a United Nations specialist

Interested in social media for development? Then you need to read a recently published, very informative interview with LeiLei Phyu, Social Media Manager at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). LeiLei covers a range of topics in the context of UNDP’s work, including effective public relations, transparency, capacity building, strategy and corporate leadership.

UNDP has over 800,000 followers on Twitter and over 1 million likes on Facebook.

Read the full interview on the Social Media for Development Blog or read the highlights below.

On public relations:

“Social media gave organizations like UNDP a means to directly connect to the public rather than wait to be noticed. It’s an opportunity to be more approachable and rewrite our own narrative, break down mis-information, and show that for every negative story about those in the UN system, there are 100 undiscovered stories of positive action, and that behind these results, are amazingly talented and committed human beings who work very hard to improve conditions for the world’s most vulnerable. By not responding, by not engaging, because of a culture of risk-aversion, we run the risk of letting the myth or stereotypes and public perceptions of us become bigger and bigger monsters. The best way to address mis-information and chase the monsters away is turn the light on and reveal ourselves, who we are, what we do and how it makes an impact, what the steps look like at different phases of a project, and why you should care.”

On transparency:

“Social media is transforming the culture of communications and transparency in the organization where often, no news comes out of projects until the project reporting cycle comes to term, a very technical status and budget report is sent to donors, and depending on the communications capacity (whether they have a dedicated communications staff in their office or not), we may or may not get a report or story about the project that may or may not sound more or less like a budget report. So social has challenged different parts of the organization to change specific processes so that we’re more accountable and transparent at every step of the process.”

On capacity:

“We are part of a tree and the tree has to be healthy for everything to work right—I cannot tweet without getting quality stories that show impact and has a strong human narrative from fellow communications colleagues. They in turn need capacity, training, dedicated time and the full support and cooperation of their office to communicate, as well as a strong linkage with the project and technical staff who have the expertise, data and access to the communities who participate in our projects.”

On approaches/strategy:

“For global accounts, we try to find that middle ground to tackle the diversity of our social community. Advocacy, education, ensuring accountability and transparency through open.undp.org data and thought leadership are priorities for messaging… We shine the light on local heroes who bring amazing changes to improve their communities through our work.

“Our amazing regional teams across five continents manage separate regional accounts. Our 170+ country offices maintain their own social accounts. They all have different sets of audience who are interested in regional issues or only about particular countries.

“Be social. Be genuine. Engage. Have empathy in your storytelling. Be human. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our audience. Continue to improve upon what’s working so far but don’t get comfortable. Innovation is vital to social media –just staying relevant doesn’t cut it.”

On the best platform to use:

“I love Twitter for the real-time interaction, behind the scenes feel, the challenge of getting up breaking news as it happens and for rapid information consumption. Twitter also challenges me to write better and think more strategically about key messages I want the audience to walk away with into a single tweet—only 20% of our audience actually clicks on our links for more information so the tweets have to be super tight and informative so they walk away with knowledge.

“My favorite is still Facebook because I can really establish a relationship with our community. Those who engage with us on Twitter may change from day to day. But on Facebook, there’s a very dedicated community who engages daily, takes the time to read and give feedback.”

On engagement with audiences in developing countries:

“The top countries where our audience are based in are India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Egypt… We aren’t seeing a rise in interaction with recipients of our programming but there has always been an organic growth in audience from programme countries—many are members of the general public who want to know if we’re being effective in their countries, want project updates and want to see impact, or want us to do more (sometimes on issues that go beyond our scope and mandate)-others want to learn about job opportunities and NGOs want to explore ways to become implementing partners or receive aid.”

On leadership:

[UNDP Administrator] Helen Clark being an amazing advocate of social media has made all the difference with our strategy. She not only champions social media—she’s an avid champion of strategic and effective communications. This opens up the space for “converting” the skeptics when she leads by example, rather than when a younger, more junior staff like me attempt to go against the “this is how it is” approach to the system and lots and lots of bureaucratic red tape.”

Read the full interview

UNICEF wins Webby Award

Congratulations to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for winning a Webby Award for best YouTube channel in the Public Service & Activism category! I highlighted some of UNICEF’s great videos in a previous post, which is why I’m very happy that they’ve received this accolade.

Winning a Webby is a big deal. It’s a high profile, internationally-recognized award, highlighting excellence on the Internet. Award categories include websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile.

Find out more about the Webby Awards

Check out great UNICEF videos below or visit the YouTube channel

Powerful UNICEF music videos raise awareness of humanitarian issues

In my previous post I looked at how music can be used to boost social causes. The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) recent music video campaign is a prime example. UNICEF’s series of music videos aimed at raising awareness of children’s rights have been viewed by over 300,000 people, according to David Girling’s Social Media for Development blog.

Girling interviewed Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator at UNICEF, to find out more about the creative process behind the videos. Featuring the music of critically-acclaimed artists such as Banks and SOJA, the videos cover a range of themes from access to education to ending violence against children and child marriage.

Ledner had this to say about selecting the right artists: “[You need] to ensure you identify an artist that has a significant fan base, that’s critically praised, that is smart, intelligent, passionate and understands your work. This is essential for success and for a mutually beneficial relationship. The team the artist works with is also very important. You need to know they’re willing to help you seed the content with different outlets.”

He added: “Music resonates globally and has helped us provoke conversations around key issues UNICEF advocates for. Music can often touch people in ways other media cannot. It makes them think about their own lives and helps them relate to others because they feel something in the music which is sometimes harder to convey to a general audience.”

Read the full article here and watch the music videos below.


Access the UNICEF YouTube channel here