Freddy the Fly: A lesson in effective development communications

The organization I work for, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), recently released the short animated video, ‘Freddy the Fly’, which I helped produce. ‘Freddy the Fly’ tells the story of a community that is mobilized to clean up its act and become open defecation free. But what makes the video so unique is that it is told from the perspective of a fly, who grows increasingly grumpy as the community steadily improves its sanitation and hygiene.

The main audiences for the video are those who need to hear the messages to improve their sanitation and hygiene (communities, school children, and the like) and those who can use the video as a tool to promote sanitation and hygiene behaviour change (development practitioners, especially those involved in sanitation programmes).

Check out the video below:

Ensuring that sustainable development issues, such as behaviour change and sanitation, resonate with your key audiences can sometimes be challenging. This can be due to the dynamic, multi-layered nature of these issues, as well as the complex and technical concepts linked to them. For example, how should one communicate faecal sludge management to non-sanitation practitioners?

This is where effective communications comes in. After identifying your audiences through communications and content strategies, communications professionals must ensure that they convey messages in the most clear, concise and engaging ways possible, adapted to those audiences. This includes identifying the appropriate tools and channels through which the messages are conveyed.

Though I’m being subjective here, I think ‘Freddy the Fly’ is a strong example of how to effectively communicate international development topics that may seem overly technical or not immediately marketable or exciting. Like pooping in the open! Here’s why:

  • It conveys key messages via a powerful channel: video.
  • It uses effective storytelling to engage audiences.
  • It repackages multi-layered, low-profile (but extremely important) topics – such as behaviour change through Community-Led Total Sanitation, sustainable sanitation and hygiene and open defecation – in an easy to understand, entertaining way.
  • It uses simple but creative visuals and narration (rhyming couplets) to engage audiences of all ages.
  • It tells the story from the perspective of a fly, using the element of novelty to engage audiences.
  • Finally, it’s an effective organizational promotion tool, as it effectively positions the organization addressing the issues presented in the video: WSSCC. The end of the video explains how WSSCC, through its Global Sanitation Fund, is helping end open defecation, with numbers to boot. It also directs audiences to WSSCC’s website, where they can learn more or support the cause.

Voila, the anatomy of an effective communications product. If you’re interested in learning more about WSSCC’s work, or sanitation and hygiene improvement in the context of international development, check out wsscc.org.

Tapping into social media to boost nonprofit learning

How can social media drive learning in non-profit programmes? One answer can be found in an innovative project funded by the Global Sanitation Fund, under the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (CRSHIP). The project focuses on generating real-time, emergent learning for actors coordinating sanitation and hygiene activities under CRSHIP, to solve complex problems as they occur.

These actors have been encouraged to use social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Google+, to document their observations and immediately share them with peers. The Learning Network on Facebook has emerged as the most successful platform. Through the platform, implementing partners, programme management staff, sector partners, and government staff share photos, videos, case studies and other content. In addition, a small team managing the platform shares tools, facilitates discussions, monitors, summarizes and expands on the emerging learning and documentation on the platform.

Udom Sok Ek, Programme Coordinator for CRSHIP implementing partner Sovann Phoum, explains how the platform has made the learning process more effective: 

“There is a case when I organized a community meeting. Villagers joined the meeting for a while and they left. Only several people stayed until the end of the meeting. I did not know what to do back then. Without [the real-time platform], I would have to wait until the quarterly meeting to discuss the issues. But now, as soon as our problems occur I [can] write on the Learning Network Facebook page. Then I [can] receive a lot of suggestions from other partners regarding what they would do when facing similar problems.”

The Facebook platform has also proved to be a useful programme management tool, enabling CRSHIP management to monitor progress on the ground, and identify and address challenges early, in real time.

Learn more in the video below.