Nearly a week ago, we began the second World Bank-Annenberg Executive Course in Communication and Governance Reform , which is being hosted at the University of Southern California . The last few days have been filled with interactive courses and engaging discussions between top notch researchers, communication practitioners, and program participants from Uganda, Yemen, Serbia, Zambia, Morocco, and Pakistan, among other countries. The participants of this year's program have all come together to pursue a similar goal: develop core competencies essential for the successful implementation of governance objectives, even in the most difficult reform environment.
This endeavor was launched a year ago with an inaugural course  in July 2011 in Washington, DC through the partnership of the World Bank’s External Affairs Operational Communication division, the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. In the last year, these partners have focused on creating the 2012 Summer Institute, which continues to develop networks of specially trained communication practitioners that can provide effective implementation support to reform leaders and change agents.
On day one of this year’s institute, leaders from the World Bank and Annenberg Schools set the stage for the course with discussions on the evolving media landscape and the central role of communication in promoting economic development, social change, and political reforms. They also asked participants to discuss what led them to the course and they gave varied responses, including changes in communication practices; evolving job responsibilities; the difficulty of measuring impact; lack of public awareness for reform; public resistance to change; communicating difficult messages; lack appropriate platforms; and high-level corruption.
The participants have been immersed in learning modules on communication and governance, case studies on effective procurement reforms, stakeholder analysis, coalition building, persuasive communication campaigns, and political economy analyses. Among these, one memorable exercise that demonstrated some of the real obstacles to reform was a group exercise in coalition building that involved balancing twelve nails on a wooden box. I don’t want to spoil it for future participants of the program, but I will say that it took an amazing amount of persistence, willpower, and collaboration for one group to achieve the simultaneous balance of the nails.
Right now, we are halfway through the institute with forthcoming courses on organizational change, collaboration, negotiation, social media, and monitoring and metrics.
It’s been a thrill to see the program participants working in the private sector, government, and multi-lateral institutions, apply the learning models to real world challenges within their organizations.
Picture credit: Rong Wang