Assignment (Applied learning activity): Creating and Sharing Your Community Story
It’s your turn to compose your community story using the medium of your choice and share it in the discussion forum below. If you wrote a short article, recorded a video or developed a social media post with photos – it’s a good time to share them here. You may create a story about your volunteering experience, community work as a whole or a specific project you are working on right now. This is the best opportunity to apply all strategies you have learned in this eLearning course to produce a good SDG-related story that will help to share your local success with the wider national community and beyond.
Module 4: Covering community activities in the media –> 4. How to use social networks to promote your activities
After capturing your story you should think about sharing it with your own community, identified partners and their campaigns that address your issue. You may also share it with decision-makers (your local MPs) asking for positive change. It’s important to put as much thought and energy into getting the story out there.
Hand-in-hand with getting your story out is repackaging and rewriting – telling different versions of your story for different mediums, platforms and goals. There are plenty of mediums you can use to repackage and distribute your story:
Print: Annual reports, Fundraising letters, Media releases, Case studies
Face-to-Face: Presentations, Speeches, Meetings, Press conferences, Media pitches, Special events, Exhibits
Online and Digital: Website, Reports, Newsletter, E-mails, Blog posts, Podcast, Video, Photo captions, Social media: X (Twitter), LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.
In the nonprofit world, communications have become more digital over time. Local communities, charities and even big international organizations like UNDP can benefit from using digital storytelling. Watch this UNDP video on how to craft an effective story by balancing content with visual elements and tailoring it to the audience and platform. (An overview of Digital storytelling).
Determining the right digital technology can take some time. So, ask yourself first: who your target audience is, consider what platforms are most accessible, safe, and familiar to them. Then identify what digital platforms you are most comfortable with, as a user as well as a digital content creator.
Visual storytelling through Social Media
As a storyteller you can use your stories to build online communities and network with others to bring change. As a publisher you can get your visual storytelling (images or videos) out into the world through social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. According to Capacity Canada: Despite the rapidly growing influence of social media, many nonprofits still don’t have a meaningful presence and communication strategy on social media.
Social media is the broad term for websites and applications that help people create and share content, such as text or photo stories, or network with others online. A social media post is the content that you physically put on the Internet. It could be a photo, a few words, a blog or a vlog.
Using different online platforms will give you a different audience and share your voice with different people.
If you are seeking to captivate your audience through detailed paragraphs, consider a text-based platform such as Facebook or a blogging website. If you would like your story to focus on images and visual inspiration, consider a visually focused platform such as Instagram. Developing and sharing stories through Instagram Live can cost significantly less and sometimes nothing at all. If you would like to tell your story in video format, consider interactive platforms like YouTube or TikTok.
The key to using social media is to ask yourself:
Who do I want to connect with and why?
Which social media platform can help me achieve this purpose?
Have I kept the people in my story (in words, photographs and videos) safe online?
Remember: The more you develop your story, learn about your target audience, and practice using different digital technologies, the easier it will become to choose the right digital technology for your story.
After reviewing the content in this section discussing digital platforms and social media sharing, we encourage you to share your thoughts on sharing your stories through social media in the discussion forum below:
Who is you target audience?
What platforms are most comfortable and accessible for your community?
What platforms have been most effective for you so far?
Module 4: Covering community activities in the media -> Section 3: How to take an ethical photo
Have you heard a saying: ‘Pictures are worth 1,000 words’? It’s actually true. Images are one of the most powerful forms of communication, especially in journalism. Text and photos should complement each other visually, as well as in their content.
As you plan a story (about your SDG-related activity) for printed newspaper or online magazine, you have to decide which tools would best tell each part of the story. The web is a visual medium, so be sure to include some powerful photos.
However, photojournalism (document life with photographic storytelling) has become more complicated technologically and ethically. These days photojournalists face tough ethical decisions on what to shoot, what to use or when images can be altered.
Photojournalists are responsible for the integrity of their images. They will not alter images so that they mislead the public.
They will explain in the photo caption if a photograph has been staged.
They will also label altered images as photo illustrations.
A story with good photos has a better chance to get published in media. However, photographers and photo-editors can actively shape or even manipulate public opinion by their visual products. Especially, when the images portray vulnerable communities from low-income countries.
Have you wondered How can the photos (taken in Global South countries and published in Global North media outlets) influence people’s opinions and decision making? Check this video presentation while using critical thinking and strengthening your media and information literacy (MIL) skills.
At the end of the video you could learn more about the Code of Conduct on Images and Messages – created and published by Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations Dóchas. The Code offers a set of guidelines to assist organisations in their decision-making about which images and messages to choose in their communication while maintaining full respect for human dignity.
Usingthe Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct’s guiding principles stipulate that choices of images and messages will be made based on the paramount principles of:
Respect for the dignity of the people concerned;
Belief in the equality of all people;
Acceptance of the need to promote fairness, solidarity and justice.
Module 4: Covering community activities in the media – > Section 2: How to conduct an interview
An interview is a way of engaging in a conversation with someone and helping her or him share their experience. The interview is also one of the best ways to find your stories and make them more compelling with quotes and anecdotes.
There are plenty of publications and articles online on how to approach people / interviewees and conduct an interview – whether from a journalism perspective or a qualitative research point of view. According to Capacity Canada: Whichever way you come to storytelling, there are some interviewing basics that will help ensure you gather rich information that is as objective as possible. Most revolve around the key tool of any interview: the question.
Questions as key tools of any interview
Before you start, write a short plan of what you want to achieve through the interview and a list of questions to ask. Make sure you:
Get to know the person before jumping in to the official interview.
Avoid closed-ended questions (leading to short Yes or No answers).
Use open-ended questions (starting mostlywith What, How and Why).
Ask simple, straightforward questions without making statements.
Don’t ask leading or suggesting questionsto learn, not to establish your position.
Work through the silence. An uncomfortable pause might lead to a great story.
Use follow-up questions to dig deeper into the story or to get more details.
Prepare. Well prepared you canengage in real conversation and be more spontaneous.
Don’t overscript. Avoid reading a list of questions off a page instead of listening and having a conversation.
For those of you interested in the craft of interviewing, there is the insightful article by Chip Scanlan from The Poynter Institute for Media Studies on the Power of Questions (The Power of Good Questions).
Even journalists who have done hundreds of interviews sometimes need a refresher on how to conduct an interview with a source. You might get useful this example structure and interview questions prepared by Restless Development and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) teams:
Explain who you are and why you are conducting the interview.
Establish key information about the person and put them at ease.
Start to explore the subject area for your interview.
Dig deeper by asking them to expand on points they have made or to explore the wider impact.
Explore potential solutions.
Conclude and wrap-up.
Let’s test your knowledge on how to conduct an interview (and what to think about: Before / During / After the interview). Take a Kahoot Quiz on interviewing now (How much do you know about interviewing?).
If you are still not sure: How closely do you stick to your list of questions; Whether to record answers on your phone or take physical notes; What do you do if the source is in a bad mood – media experts Roy Peter Clark and Annie Aguiar from The Poynter Institute for Media Studies prepared 12 tips on interviewing, listening and note-taking that could improve your next story (An illustrated guide to the basics of interviewing).
While interviewing vulnerable persons
Abuse is based on an imbalance of power, and in an interview the media professional has far more power than a member of a group of vulnerable persons (mostly children). While interviewing people from vulnerable communities you should NEVER:
force discussion on topics which are painful
ask questions which put them in danger / humiliation
publish personal and identifying details without explicit informed consent
stage a story or ask them to tell a story that they have not experienced
label them or describe them in a way that might attract an abuse, discrimination or ostracism by their own communities
Remember: You are interviewing to learn. If you are talking, you are not learning anything. So the key is to listen more than you talk. If you want to learn more about How to use your ears more than your mouth, read an important article by a multimedia teacher Al Tompkins from The Poynter Institute for Media Studies (To tell stronger stories, listen rather than ‘interview’).
It’s your turn
You may use your new interviewing skills to capture the voices of those living in your community very soon. Think about how stories from community members could do shape public opinion about your long-term work, specific project and SDG-related activities. Identify at least two potential interviewees within the community and shortly describe them (without using their names) in the discussion forum below. You may think of:
Elderly community member with an interesting life history.
Nonprofit worker responsible for running an innovative project in your area.
Local activist who has brought about social change.
Representative of a group of vulnerable persons overcoming significant challenges.
Module 4: Covering community activities in the media –> Section 1: How to write an article
Choose a story that you know very well. Think about why you remember it – what makes it special? Write down the words that come to your mind as you think about the story. Then answer these questions:
Is it a story to which you or your friends can relate? How?
Is it relevant to your life today? To your family or your community? How?
Do you feel any emotions when you hear / read the story? Why?
When you read / hear the story does it hold your full attention? Why?
According to World Vision media team: A good story is something that can be easily understood by the audience. It’s usually something someone can personally relate to, that builds an emotional connection and holds a person’s attention by using strong descriptions, like emotions and senses that engage the listener or reader.
Why are you creating a story
Your purpose will guide the kinds of questions you ask and the kinds of stories you look for. Reasons for collecting and telling a story include:
To share your success
To advocate for change
To learn about what works and what doesn’t
To share resources and knowledge
To persuade or influence an audience
To motivate change
To inform / write a report (for stakeholders).
Whether you use a storytelling approach, or more of a research approach, there are many ways to create a story. According to Capacity Canada media team: Materials for your stories can be collected through:
Journaling, drawing, or other art forms
Community story collectors
Video or Photography
Focus on (effective) Storytelling
Let’s take a look at the key components of effective storytelling. While writing an article / creating your story you should:
Have a clear narrative – Your audience should be able to identify and follow the setting, events and people in your story.
Have a purpose – A story with a purpose will keep your audience involved and ensure that they leave with a concrete understanding of your message.
Connect an idea with an emotion – By using universal words and emotions your audience will understand the feelings of the characters and the impact the experience had on them because they can relate to the emotion.
Consider the audience – Tailoring your story to your audience will help you to tap into readers’ interests and experiences, allowing them to better connect with your story.
Include specific details and examples – By using descriptive language and including examples your audience will understand and visualize your story. They will also engage your audience’s senses and create a memorable experience.
Incorporate data / statistics – Using data will make your story more concrete and credible and help your audience understand the context of your story.
Have you wondered How to create a good story? Check this video presentation on How to write an article while mastering your storytelling skills.
At the end of the video you could learn more about the story titles / headlines as lifelines to your readers. They grab attention, build trust and help time-pressed consumers focus on the stories they care most about. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies published nine ways to write engaging, accurate headlines for any platform (9 tips for writing stronger headlines).
The best headlines promise great stories
According to NPR: Even the greatest headline writer in the world will fail with a boring or confusing story. That’s because the best headlines aren’t necessarily the ones that make people click — they’re the ones that promise great stories and then fulfill that promise. So you need a good story first, then you can master your story title. In this video, NPR training team focuses on the characteristics all great headlines share.
Next, if you want to go deeper into the storytelling topic, you can review the Poynter article below by the award-winning writing coach’s Roy Peter Clark to learn more about writing short (How to write a good story in 800 words or less).
After reading the articles and watching the videos on Why to create a story and How to write an article, think of one great story from your past once again and share the following information / post your comment in the discussion forum below:
What is the purpose or main message of the story?
Who is the intended audience?
Why do you think this story made such a powerful impression on you?
Module 2: Taking an action towards the SDGs fulfilment –> Section 2: How to organize community event at the local level
There are many types of Public events you may consider for your SDG-related action at the local level. Depending on your organization’s budget you may organize: Local meetings, Community and Constituency group meetings, Equality Circles, Focus Group Discussions, Long Table, or even People’s Assemblies.
Local events or People’s Assemblies?
Very popular and cost effective might be Local meetings on a local or grassroots level where communities and constituency groups will come together to deliberate their issues. You can imagine a Half or full-day meeting with 15-30 participants in the countryside or an urban area.
According to Faces of migration consortium: A People’s Assembly is a meeting or consultation organised by communities or constituency groups in cooperation with the civil society at local, sub-national, national, regional, and global levels to identify their issues and problems, analyse the structural causes, discuss and develop a set of demands, devise remedies, and prepare the roadmap for their engagements to address them. Read more on organizing People’s Assemblies in the toolkit by GCAP (People’s Assemblies 2023 during the Global Week to Act4SDGs).
At the local, national or international level, a People’s Assembly can be organised by various groups for a half-day, full-day, or more to discuss the issues affecting them, existing welfare schemes, if any, demands to the government, and what could or should be done for the welfare of the community.
People and communities come together to:
Analyse the current situation
Analyse the inequalities people and communities are facing
Give inequalities a face
Formulate demands to end inequalities in the community, nationally and globally
Prepare the inputs for the National People’s Assembly
Decide on actions
Steps Before the event
Understanding the current situation and goals you wish to achieve is crucial when planning. Educate yourself and ask: What are the current local realities before the event and how should these realities change after the event. Identify your target group by thinking about who is the event for and get to know their needs.
Good promotion is the key to a successful event. Therefore, think about promotion on all channels, so the public can learn about our event. Let’s use websites, social media – like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. You can also inform the public through the local media (local press, local radio), local government sites or public bulletin boards. While promoting the event Use an effective communication strategy, called Hope-Based Communication.
Let’s also keep hope in mind (and apply Hope-based communication) when:
thinking about the message we want to share with others
formulating the message (wording)
choosing the pictures accompanying the message
Important Event planning Checklist
The key to any successful event is organization. It is possible to host a successful event with little to no money thanks to a good preparation and a group of volunteers. A checklist can help you and your group of volunteers keep track of all your event details. It may help you identify all the necessary steps for your event to be successful. Find out more on How to host an Event and use the Event planning checklist by OXFAM (How to get started: A menu of ideas).
The checklist items are listed in chronological order. We recommend that you check off each task as you complete it (It’s a great feeling):
Identify your audience members and their interests
Determine your purpose and goals
Clarify what you want to achieve
Choose the type of event
Set a date
Determine your budget
Compile a list of what you will need for your event
Reserve a venue and file for any related permits
Get commitments from volunteers
Be creative – make it interesting and fun
Promote your event
Prepare for the worst, create contingency plans
Do a run-through
Enjoy your event
End with action
Steps after the event
It’s important to celebrate your event, show your appreciation and express your thanks to all involved. You may:
Organise a meeting or a call with the people involved
Analyse together what went well and where you want to improve
Think about the follow-up
Include new contacts in your address base
Send the information about the event to your national network
Express your thanks to all involved
Celebrate a moment of gratefulness to yourself
Watch How UN Mongolia call to participate in the UNITE TO ACT stunt to show your solidarity and unity for a sustainable, just and peaceful world looked like (UNITE TO ACT for SDGs).
Do not forget to Evaluate your activities related to the event organization after it’s over. Think about what worked and what didn’t. Talk to attendees, volunteers, special guests, and others involved. Capture the information and file it for next year’s event planning.
Monitoring and evaluation are also crucial for supporting wider organisational learning. They can influence future campaigns and events. They can also be used to demonstrate accountability to stakeholders by providing evidence for giving feedback on the performance and achievements of the events. Read more on Evaluating the SDG-related activity / community event by Diaconia ECCB and GCAP (How to engage the public in sustainable development).
Some key questions to ask in evaluations:
What are we doing well and what should we continue doing?
What are we doing okay or badly, and what can we improve?
What was supposed to happen, what actually happened and why were they different?
In what ways has our understanding of the situation deepened or changed?
It’s your turn
After reviewing the content in this section on How to organize the SDGs related activity at the local level, we encourage you to share your ideas on planning your own community event in the discussion forum below. Think of:
What is your target group?
What kind of communication channels would you use to promote your event?
Module 2: Taking an action towards the SDGs fulfilment –> Section 1: How to take an action for your cause
Would you like to bring positive change to your local community but aren’t sure how to begin? In this module, a few good practices will be introduced, which you can use to get inspired.
There are several paths you can take when addressing issues that matter to you and/or your nonprofit organization. In this section three main approaches will be discussed:
engagement with the media
Awareness Raising Activities
The target group of awareness-raising campaign is usually general public. There are some effective tools that can be used to raise awareness about sustainable development, SDGs and social inclusion. They can also be used to promote the idea of the 2030 UN agenda ‘Leaving no one left behind’ in your community.
Watch the TEDx talk of Susan Adams – an awarded Eco UNESCO leader of the Year 2017 for her work in Irish schools leading young people to make a direct impact on their environment (The power of taking action).
Depending on your budget you may consider preparing:
Leaflets – Create brief and concise leaflets, factsheets or banners with logos or slogans that hold the key information you would like to promote. You can hand out these materials during awareness-raising events or festivals.
A rally – Stage a peaceful demonstration demanding the better implementation of the SDGs. It could be just several people standing outside of their representative’s office, holding signs to show where they stand on an issue.
Photo exhibition – Use photography as a tool to raise awareness for pressing issues. Art has the potential to represent a shared language for groups of different origins, cultures, or social status. It’s a powerful inclusive campaigning tool that is easily understandable for the broad public.
A public discussion – Organize a community level public discussion with young people or in communities of marginalized people. You could include an interview or debate with the local or national MPs or mayors to share a public statement and request a response from those authorities.
Watch a digital art exhibition dedicated to inspiring and mobilizing action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals – set to be unveiled at the 2023 Sustainability Summit held in New York, as world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters for the high-level opening session of the General Assembly. (Digital Art Exhibition)
The target group of advocacy activities are local / regional authorities and political representatives, parliamentarians and/or whole governments. Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling people to:
Express their views, thoughts, and concerns
Access information, advice, and guidance
Explore choices and options for services and care
According to the EU Faces of Migration consortium: Advocacy seeks to ensure that all people in society have their voices heard on issues that are important to them, that their rights are protected and promoted, and their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives. For example, you may collect the voices of marginalized peoples speaking about their situation, visit the office of local politicians and discuss their pledges on the SDGs.
Advocacy seeks to ensure that all people in society can:
Have their voices heard on issues that are important to them
Protect and promote their rights
Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives
Take a Kahoot quiz on How your community or nonprofit organization can use Advocacy activities to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them. (How much do you know about Advocacy?)
Before the Advocacy meeting with local / regional authorities and representatives and/or parliamentarians your team should: Know the background of the respective representative and Schedule a meeting: Contact the office of the representative and seek a meeting by sending a letter via e-mail or phone. Also do your homework, decide the number of delegation’s members and who will speak what.
During the advocacy meeting: Thank the representative for the meeting (the meeting may last 20-30 minutes). Make a brief presentation of the issue, its impact, and state key the tasks you want to be performed by the representative. Hand over a 2- to 3-page narration. Listen to their response and follow up eventually if they need more information or support.
Remember: to think about What benefit the representative may receive. Whenever possible, try to convince the representative that taking the issue may be electorally beneficial to him/her and their party.
Consistent engagement with the media (organizing a press conference, distributing a press release and forwarding the campaign results to the media) is always needed. The target group of engagement with the media is primarily media community and secondarily general public.
Press releases, interviews, and informal media contracts are excellent ways of getting your message across. They are the bread and butter of your media relations. The media can be a powerful tool for promoting accountability in relation to government actors and creating awareness about the SDG agenda.
There are several key principles your organization should follow while organizing a successful Press conference for local and national journalists:
Define the key message (summarized in 3–5 clear points) that you are trying to get out to the public.
Develop a press kit, a folder of information to give reporters a background info about your issue or SDG-related activity.
Contact the media and follow up with them over the phone after e- mailing the press advisories / background info to them.
Select and train your community members (potential guest speakers / interviewees) to be knowledgeable and articulate about the issues.
Be clear and concise in your speech. Avoid sounding patronizing, assume the audience is intelligent.
After reviewing the content in this section on How to take an action towards positive change and the SDGs fulfilment at the local level, we encourage you to share your ideas on addressing issues that matter to you and your community in the discussion forum below. Think of:
A potential local politician your delegation would like to meet and shortly describe his/her position (without using their names).
A potential Advocacy activity your delegation would like to use to have your voices heard on issues that are important to you.