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Making Parliaments Work through Better Communication

Paul Mitchell's picture

Governments and development agencies have devoted many years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing democratic governance in countries around the world. The idea of creating democracies is still the primary driver of many governance improvement agendas. Clearly, democratic systems often bring with them improvements in governance and economic development, but simply putting a democracy into place is not enough.
 

Last week, this blog featured a quote by Elinor Ostrom, which contains an interesting sentence: “Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum." 

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Our definition of propaganda focuses on the communication process – most specifically, on the purpose of the process: Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

“To identify a message as propaganda is to suggest something negative and dishonest. Words frequently used as synonyms for propaganda are lies, distortion, deceit, manipulation, mind control psychological warfare, brainwashing, and palaver. A term implying propaganda that has recently gained popularity is spin, referring to a coordinated strategy to minimize negative information and present in a favorable light a story that could be damaging.”

Garth S. Jowett Victoria O’Donnell in Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999, p. 3 and p. 6.

The Uncontained Outbreak of Deal Anxiety

Sina Odugbemi's picture

An instructor in Law School was the first to explain to me the nature of  'deal anxiety' as a problem for business; now I know that  it is a problem for governance reform as well. For a lawyer 'deal anxiety' manifests when a client - usually a business executive - is so anxious to close a business deal she ignores the need for her attorney to exercise due diligence over the contract. For instance, what happens if there is a dispute? What dispute resolution mechanisms might be needed? What about conflict of laws if it is an international contract? Are we going to use the laws of the domicile of Party A or Party B? And so on. You'd be amazed how many business leaders just want to shake hands on the deal, and get on with 'the real business of making money', until something goes wrong and both sides reach for their lawyers ...as cowboys reach for  guns. Then you have a shoot out.

In international development, 'deal anxiety' manifests as the pell-mell rush to get a (reform?)  project going. Whether in grant making donor agencies or in multilateral lending institutions there is a tendency to rush to close the deal, get the partner government to sign the relevant documents, get the internal approving authorities to say Yes. The attitude is: Let's keep this moving folks!

How to Make Friends

Caroline Jaine's picture

Many (some say all) organisational, institutional or government communications efforts are about influence and/or behaviour change.  A point often missed is that communications cannot be a bolt-on activity that happens in isolation from other actions.  If you are generally “making friends” with your audience, it will be a lot easier to influence them – as J.S.Knox writes “You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.”  Time and time again I come across well-educated policy formers, peace builders, and frontline campaigners who are attempting to build a strategy for their work without including an element of strategic communications from the outset.  There is a need to grasp that every activity you are engaged in will influence (there is no such thing as “not communicating” – everything sends a message).  So, the way the phone is answered, your level of cultural awareness, the tone of an email, the policies you promote, and physical campaigns (e.g. military/peacekeeping/law enforcement activity) will all have an impact on your effectiveness to communicate other messages.

Who is a Good ‘Communicologist’?

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

In this blog I am addressing the second of the ‘Ten Key Issues on (Development) Communication’ that states that there is a sharp and profound difference about a good everyday communicator and a professional communicator. I apologize to those of you who have this distinction clear in your minds and find this an obvious point. Unfortunately, many, too many, managers and decision makers in development institutions do not always seem to understand the difference between the two.

I have heard many times the sentence ‘He/she is a good communicator’, a seemingly positive statement. However it is a statement that can be rather frustrating when used interchangeably to denote a person skillful in presenting ideas and points of view and a person with a professional expertise in the field of communication.

A Step Forward for UN Peacebuilding

Henriette von Kaltenborn-Stachau's picture

Just before the holidays I participated in a UN conference on the role of the public sphere in post-conflict societies. The one-day event, titled “Media and Communication in Peacebuilding” was organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in collaboration with the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office.

Communicating Change or a Shift?

Caroline Jaine's picture

Communicating change is a specialist field.  PR and HR companies charge a small fortune for seminars on the subject.  Whilst corporate and government communicators wrestle to understand how they might persuade colleagues that important, imminent, organisational changes are good for them - so that they can achieve that all important "buy-in" which leads to the shiny path of success - organisati

A Major Challenge in Good Governance: The End of Communication as We Know It (Part I)

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

The reason I chose such a title is due to the difficulty of mainstreaming (i.e., understanding and institutionalizing) the emerging conception of communication in development required to support and address the challenges in the current process of democratization, especially when dealing with governance issues.

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