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Remember the basics

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Earlier I wrote about ‘connect technologies’ like Twitter and YouTube, and how they are changing the way the world perceives and acts on conflict. Examples are the so-called Twitter Revolution in Moldova and, more recently, the use of YouTube to get the story out of post-electoral Iran.

The potential of these technologies is not in doubt. The challenge is to harness them to make a difference. This is of particular interest to the WDR team because we are looking at communication in relation to the causes and dynamics of conflict, as well as expectations and legitimacy of institutions after violence.

The peace campaigners and political activists I met at of the London meeting of the Alliance for Youth Movements have built their success on new media but they have never lost sight of these tested principles of political advocacy:

    The best storyteller wins.  Photo © Donatella L. Lorch.

Tell your story: If you want to break through the noise in our cacophonic world, you need to find ways to grab your audience’s attention and make them ‘feel’ your cause. Once a human face, voice and a compelling narrative are in place, people are more likely to engage and take action. Remember, the best storyteller wins

Focus on the long-term. Measure your progress against clear benchmarks. Beware of an over-simplistic drive for the endgame and recognize that the activist’s job is seldom done, even when you think you’ve got there.

Think laterally. The best route is rarely a straight line between two points. Esra’a Al Shafei, who runs the digital network MideastYouth.com, spoke about her fight for the rights of Ba’hais and Kurds as a way of addressing, tangentially, other entrenched forms of injustice in the Middle East and North Africa—including discrimination against women.

How to change the world

Nicholas van Praag's picture

     Violence reporting tool

Can new communications technologies change the way we change the world? That’s the big question.  Last week I got some clues from an international crowd of peace campaigners and social activists who have used digital communications to great effect. 

They were meeting in London under the banner of the Alliance for Youth Movements, a US NGO umbrella group. The focus was on new media as a game-changer in dealing with today’s morphing, metastasizing forms of conflict.

This is a trend we are tracking in the World Development Report 2011 which looks at conflict, violence and development.  I was in London with Carol Pineau, the curator of Conflict Convo—an initiative we are launching to revolutionize the feedback loop from people living in conflict zones.

After two-days of fascinating conversations, this is my checklist of what a would-be world changer needs to remember about new media: