7 ways of understanding communication to escape from organizational monologue

We all have things to say and we believe that what we have to say is the most important. Organizations tend to do the same: they have an agenda of things to report, they publish them and claim to have effectively communicated.

In the sphere of international organizations, NGOs or public institutions working in the wider world of human rights and particularly on issues related to human mobility, responding appropriately to the needs of affected populations must be the objective of everything that is done— it is vital to avoid institutional monologue. Whether working in a capacity building approach, public policy or direct assistance approach, putting affected populations at the centre of the intervention is the only way to work efficiently and sustainably.

There are different theoretical and practical approaches to guide this process, including Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) and Communication with Communities (CwC). These terms are often combined or interchanged with community engagement, humanitarian communication, development communication, risk communication and community engagement (RCCE), among others. (More information here).

Despite the different approaches that can be used to work on the issue, there are some common elements of how communication can be understood and worked on to guide towards more participatory and strategic approaches:

1. Communication as a right

Access to the necessary information, at the right time and in the right language, is a fundamental human right that can help save lives. Without information, communities cannot access services, know the risks of a context or make informed decisions. Trafficking and smuggling networks, for example, use rumours and misinformation to deceive people. Understanding and positioning that communication is as vital as food, water, shelter and medicines is the first step.

2. Communication as a process and not as a product

Generally in organizational dynamics, communication is seen as a reactive process in daily work and is not seen as a proactive or strategic element. Communication is reduced to the creation of communication products, and in issues as complex as migration this approach is vital. Decisions related to people's migration will hardly be impacted by an isolated communication product, it requires processes that contemplate a diversity of factors.

3. Evidence-based communication

Communication on migration should be based on the information needs of the target audience and not on the agenda of the organizations. Even in emergency situations, the first step should be to assess needs. All decisions of substance and form should be based on knowledge and inclusion of the population and all variables related to their communication needs, access to information channels and capacities to be part of the activities and solutions.

4. Inclusive, appropriate and participatory communication

A proper analysis of the population and its dynamics is key for communication to be respectful and contextualized. Communication must effectively address the needs of different groups and diversify distribution channels and formats, particularly when dealing with populations on the move and/or in conditions of vulnerability. It is essential to ensure understanding and respect for local language, cultures and customs, for which pre-validation and participatory product development activities are recommended.

5. Two-way communication

Putting target populations at the centre of any intervention is only possible when there is a planned and conscious effort to maintain a dialogue. This implies collective mechanisms to seek their opinions so that people always have the opportunity to inform, influence, comment and criticize actions, projects and services.  It is important to go beyond having a suggestion box or a Facebook profile and really promote as part of the daily work an active listening with the populations. Find here resources to work on feedback mechanisms and rumor management.

6. Transparent communication

It is important that organizations and institutions are understood as actors in the community ecosystem and the general context, never as the centre of everything. From there, work should be done to ensure that the population has transparent knowledge about the role, objectives and limitations of the organization. This transparency will be rewarded with trust, which is the basis of any bond.

7. Coordinated communication

Everything communicates! Whether it is the information display or the treatment at a service counter, organizations should not separate what they say in their communication products from what they say with their behaviour. The coordination between what is said formally and informally, literally and implicitly is key to effective communication processes at the end of the day.

These 7 ways of approaching the issue will help you transform communication into a valuable asset to achieve your objectives. Finally, to assess the extent to which your projects or activities incorporate participatory approaches you can use the CwC/AAP Marker conducted by the Office of the Special Envoy of the IOM Director General for the Regional Response to the Situation in Venezuela (2021).

 
 

7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).