While the UK basks in a heatwave - for international readers, anything over 25 degrees means that we Brits go into meltdown, mostly because of our lack of airconditioning - I’ve been enjoying the blue skies and similar temperatures (and air conditioning) in Belgrade, Serbia with our partner CIPE.
CIPE strengthens democracy worldwide through private enterprise and market reforms, and since 2015 we have been working with them on a series of workshops on how CIPE’s partners across the world can use technology to support their work - particularly around outreach and advocacy. To date, we’ve run face-to-face workshops in Nigeria, Cambodia, the US, Nepal, Argentina, Kenya and now Serbia, with participants from countries all over the Balkans. We’ve also run online trainings for Venezuela, and have developed an online course for the CIPE course to be used for future trainings.
One of the main topics we cover in these trainings is how NGOs and other and non-profits can use social media in a more strategic way - not just around reaching a wider audience more generally, but around deeper engagement, developing online communities and fostering conversations with a varied cross-section of society across a number of different channels. Our training content covers a wide variety of topics: from the high level, such as developing high-level social media communication strategies, digital security and acceptable use policies, to the more granular, such as creating and curating appropriate content and messaging for different mediums and platforms, or using specific tools such as Co-Schedule Headline Analyser, Buffer or RiteTag that can help tighten and hone the message. Being Panoply Digital, we also focus a lot on monitoring and evaluation through analytics, as well as digital access and use in particular contexts, and where the (gender) digital divide is and how that affects a social media strategy.
An oft-repeated comment I have heard from some participants across the different countries is that social media is often seen as fun and frivolous and for the young, and not necessarily as a platform for advocacy or serious discussions about society - and I think this perception is part of the reason why social media for advocacy is still relatively underused platform in international development.
So I was delighted to read a USAID guide, released in the last few days, on how social networks can be used for strengthening civil society and democracy by international development organisations. It’s full of good ideas and can act as a blueprint for NGOs and other civil society players on how to leverage social media - with a lot of the same ideas and content that we cover in our workshops, as well as a few useful case studies. It’s definitely one we’ll be referencing in our future work and pointing participants towards as a useful resource. I’m happy to report that by the end of the workshops, even the most skeptical participants are often eager to get started on their social media for advocacy work, including asking for more resources - so if at the end of two days we’re able to change these negative perceptions, I consider that a successful outcome.
Our next social media for advocacy workshop with CIPE will be held in Amman, Jordan - stay tuned for updates!