Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/The project objectives
The project objectives
Vincenzo dad been continuously reminding me that, in our project, we needed to find a different communication style from that one that NGOs ordinarily use to communicate to the public. Which had been a notorious cultural failure.
In order to obtain consensus (and raise funds) NGOs have been evoking the sense of pity in the public for the alleged victims of poverty and exclusion; so a widespread indulgence in very graphic images of starvation, misery, violence. NGOs have been trying to raise finances for their programs by insisting on the urgent, desperate and hopeless situation of the populations they serve. On the other side, mainstream media have been trying to get credit by making their audience feel lucky to be "on the right side of the world", unlike the poor and backward “others”, who need assistance and pity. (Just see the images, thank God you are here, in the first world, and not there with the unlucky lot!).
This kind of pietistic approach has somehow been working well for the NGOs and allowed them to raise money. And it surely worked quite well for the media industry enabling it to gain consensus, and thereby followers, in the average public. But this approach has also created havoc in the communication and cooperation climate between peoples, because it reinforced false and aggressive stereotypes. It is a communication approach that has kept the public of developed nations grossly ignorant of the real issues at stake in international relations. And on the side of developing nations this media approach has been reinforcing the idea that the mind of the people of the first world is closed and dull, unable to look beyond their nose. Many in the South of the world look at the media stereotypes of the western world as an evidence that the western civilization still host a violent feeling of self superiority and a thrust for domination on the others.
In spite of the initial success in raising funds, this pietistic approach by NGOs has ultimately backfired. People got accustomed with the usual “poor them” rhetoric and has grown more and more insensitive to the suffering of others. After all, there will always be too many poor people. And how do we know if the money really reaches them? And is that money able to produce any change? Are really NGOs programs making any difference ?
Yes, Vincenzo was right. We had to search for a very different approach. We needed to show why good development projects do make a difference in enabling reciprocal understanding amongst different communities. We needed to talk about the real determinants of economic poverty and social exclusion, which include the unfair trade practices forced by richer countries upon the poorer ones. We needed to reveal how much we, in the North of the World, stand to gain when the cooperation climate with the South improves. And we needed the cultural wealth of the South of the World, which is actually where the vast majority of the people of the planet live, and where cultural, political and ethnical diversities integrate much better than in the "first" world. We needed to explain how we all stand to profit from an improved global cooperation and communication climate.
Well. Vincenzo was absolutely right in assigning me with that kind of mission. He spelled out the problems clearly. But …. hey ! Are you leaving the whole headache of finding the solutions to me alone? (Of course! Wasn’t you who wrote the project! So now do it! Or as what they say in Italy "Hai voluto la bicicletta! Ora pedala!" You wanted the cycle? Now ride it!).
In reality I not yet any idea of how to do it. I just had an intuition of what was the need. I thought we had to challenge the common view that development communication is the use of communication to promote social development. This vision insists in the rhetorical modality of trying to "convince" the others or, worst, in trying to "change" the others. But in true communication there are no "others", there is only "we", we who need to learn how to cooperate, who need to learn how to learn from one another. Through communication we may "change", but it would be a reciprocal insemination.
Propaganda, seduction and other rhetorical modes are counterproductive in development cooperation, because they embody the effort of manipulating the counterparts. Open, sincere and reciprocally enabling communication instead built trust and embodies a quest for mutual growth.
How to do it? Well Stefano, wasn’t you who wrote the project! So now do it!. (God! and if I take the budget and run away on an Himalayan village to spend the next 10 years in meditation .... Nice idea .... I will do that anyway sooner or later. So let's give a try!).
Next ⇒ The real project challenges
See in the handbook
|“Those who justify themselves are not believed”.
While explaining what they do for reducing poverty, organizations tend to be preachy and heart-rending.
People are mostly untouched by such rhetoric, because, after all, humanitarian organizations are promoting their business niche.