Upact & IDleaks August 30th, 2013
RECOMMENDATIONS for FAIR communication about development cooperation By Upact & IDleaks ‘Show a people as one thing, over and over again, and that is what they will become’ (Chimimanda Adichie, Nigeria)
Background Black baby, swollen tummy, flies around the eyes. Development organisations and media have repeatedly used this image to paint a picture of development cooperation. This is also called framing: the selective use of words and images to propagate a particular interpretation of an issue. Or, in Chimimanda Adichie’s words: telling a single story. As a consequence of this, development cooperation seems limited, in many (Dutch) people’s eyes, to one ‘country’ (Africa) that is synonymous with misery. The good news is that the use of this kind of stereotypical images is on the decline. Nonetheless, development organisations and media continue to use biased representations, according to Mirjam Vossen, a journalist currently conducting PhD research on the framing of global poverty in the public debate in The Netherlands, Flanders and England1. Development organisations tend to emphasize the problems rather than the solutions, and media places more focus on negative stories and failures, supposedly because “good news is no(t) news”. This has consequences, according to Vossen, among which: aid fatigue, constrained entrepreneurship, limited private investment in foreign countries (as confirmed by a research done by The Partnership Resource Centre and Berenschot titled Doing Business in Africa, 2013) and paternalism. There has to be another way! On August 26th 2013, this communication dilemma brought together 70 young, enthusiastic members of Upact and IDleaks, who came together to scrutinise Dutch media items about development cooperation and NGO campaigns. This initiative, called Imaging in Media, generated around twenty recommendations around the framing of development cooperation. We would hereby like to offer these to development and media organisations2.
http://www.mirjamvossen.com/onderzoek/ We make a distinction between structural development cooperation and humanitarian aid. The latter fell outside the scope of the gathering of August 26th. Our recommendations limit themselves, in this first instance, to the framing of structural development cooperation. 2
Upact & IDleaks August 30th, 2013
Imaging in Media – Recommendations To development organisations (large and small): 1. Show respect for both the target group that you are asking attention for (the owners of the story you want to tell) as well as for the public (the audience). 1.1. Rather than exploiting the suffering of the target group, show people’s resilience. 1.2. Where possible, approach the target group before making a campaign and let them participate. 1.3. Let the owners of the story you are telling speak for themselves as much as possible, rather than speaking for them (by for example using voice-overs and scripts). 1.4. Avoid generalisations and clichés. Break through stereotypes like ‘poor children in dirty clothes’. Instead, emphasise the versatility of development cooperation, show the diversity. 1.5. Focus on encouraging connection and solidarity (based on equality) instead of provoking pity (which creates inequality). 1.6. Focus on similarities, situations and feelings the audience recognises. 1.7. Avoid ‘single stories’, prevent one-dimensional framing. The reality in developing countries is diverse. Show that diversity in the choice of your subjects, stories and images. 1.8. Share as much of the context as possible, the wider perspective, and the long-term solutions. This does not have to (and cannot always) be done all at once. 1.9. Be honest, show your organisation’s own limits and failures, you are dealing with critical consumers who are well aware that not every development effort can succeed. Dare to admit this - it will increase your credibility. 2. Make both the target group and the audience co-owner of the/a solution. 2.1. Ensure that the target group can actively participate in the solution-forming process so that ‘cooperation’ is reflected in your work. 2.2. Offer ways in which the audience can actively participate, besides simply donating: present local solutions to global challenges, offer perspectives on how people can make concrete contributions (for example by adapting their lifestyles). 3. Be specific: whom/what are you asking attention for, and where? Africa for example is a continent, not a country, and besides, not all people in a country need help. 4. Present results. Exhibit what has already been achieved, not merely what is lacking. 5. Be creative. Try using humour instead of the overused tragic messages/music.
To the media: 6. Show respect for the actual owner of the story as well as for the audience, do not underestimate them, take them seriously. 6.1. Rather than exploiting the suffering of the story owners to improve your ratings, show people’s resilience. 6.2. Avoid ‘single stories’, prevent one-dimensional framing. The reality in developing countries is diverse. Show that diversity in the choice of your subjects, stories and images. 6.3. Share as much of the context as possible, the wider perspective, the long-term solutions. This does not have to (and cannot always) be done all at once. The media is particularly capable of playing an important role by not groundlessly copying each other’s stories, but by adding new and different perspectives to a story so that it grows and gains substance.
Upact & IDleaks August 30th, 2013
These recommendations are offered to you by Amber Noordegraaf Anand Sheombar Angelica Aparicio Aniek Oudshoorn Anita Mátray Anna Maria Geluk Annelien Meerts Anne-Marijke Podt Annie Manders Ariadne Asimakopoulos Brenda Bartelink Brigitte Mugiraneza Didie van Bommel Ernst-Jan Stroes Eva van Amstel Folkert Rinkema
Frank van der Linde George Michelbrink Hannah Eigenman Hanneke Post Hans van der Zwan Heleen Groot Icet Daal Inemarie Dekker Iona van Dijk Iris Gardien Jacobien Nagel Jacqueline van Dooren Joost Kraak Jorda Haile Josefien de Ridder Judith Madigan
Julia van Gijzen Katja Isabelle Wijsmuller Kirsten van Reisen Lieke Willemsen Lillan Henseler Lisa Olsthoorn Marianne Brasar Marie-Antoinette Kroone Marieke Brands Marieke Versluis Marloes Thijs Mathanja Blok Merit Hindriks Mirjam Vossen Myrthe Veeneman Peggy van Schijndel
Renske Den Uil Renske Fraanje Rianne Moes Rob Wildschut Robin Hooft van Huysduynen Sandra van Soelen Sanne Vroom Simon Bongers Sophie Conin Stef Brands Stefan Verwer Tabitha Gerrets Wilco van Bokhorst Willemijn van Kol William Deymann Yvonne Zomerdijk Vermeer
Would you like your name to appear here, too? Please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org This document is also available (for sharing) on www.issuu.com/idleaks
Powered by ‘Imaging in Media’ emerged from collaboration between Upact and IDleaks.
IDleaks is a movement of Dutch citizens, young and old, who want to provide the public debate about development cooperation with facts and rid it of fiction, so that the true story behind development collaboration is exposed. NGOs, media and politicians are all stimulated to communicate transparently and comprehensively. www.facebook.com/idleaks
Upact is a Dutch foundation that creates awareness among Dutch citizens, with a focus on young people, of the causes and consequences of conflicts and inspires them to use their influence to promote peace. To this end, innovative awareness-raising tools, online campaigning, serious gaming, elearning and interactive/co-creation events are used. www.upact.nl