Crucial conversations: our favourite five

Communications highlights from our 2019 Annual Review show how we’ve explored new, and refined existing, ways to engage, listen and learn.

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Insight by 
Teresa Corcoran
Kate Green
Teresa Corcoran is content manager and Kate Green is managing editor in IIED’s Communications Group
10 March 2020

Listening, learning and exchange are ingrained in IIED’s organisational DNA. Our partnership approach, expertise in difficult dialogues and commitment to lifting up under-represented voices informs and strengthens our approach to communications.

In our 2019 Annual Review we looked back at ways we explored new channels and connected with new audiences. From filmmaking to Facebook content and innovative event design, these five highlights show that open minds and ears achieve impact.

1. New blogging platform targets Africa’s youth

We sought to hear and promote the powerful ideas coming out of youth movements and kicked off a monthly Facebook blog series. We focused calls for blogs on the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania where young people’s engagement with Facebook is particularly strong.

In his blog, Ridwan Bello, of Jigawa State College of Education in Nigeria, called on young people in his country to build up their knowledge about the causes and impacts of climate change so they can fully engage in the youth-led climate action across the globe. In another contribution Joanes Ooko Odero, of Kenyatta University, Kenya, blogged about his vision to expand a new tree-planting initiative.

People planting trees

A community tree planting event (Photo: copyright Brian Ochieng Otieno, Loitokitok Community Forest Association

2. Diverse dialogues

In one of our biggest communications programmes yet, we hosted discussion and debate around the world on how to develop a fair, sustainable marine economy. The programme – including workshops, think dinners and an international event – was built around listening to the evidence of others, ranging from fisher folk in Costa Rica, to technical specialists in Edinburgh, to government staff in New York. 


An extract from the graphical illustration of the discussions at an event held to discuss an inclusive blue economy (Illustration: Scarlet Design/IIED)

3. Capturing content from the grassroots

The 13th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to climate change (CBA13) brought together more than 300 participants from 42 countries to exchange knowledge about community-based adaptation. This year, the conference welcomed more indigenous voices than ever before.

We shared their insights globally by live tweeting and real-time web posting of session highlights. Over the four-day event we captured practitioners’ voices through videos and blogs, and promoted their perspectives in the run-up to the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.

A woman speaking in front of a video camera

Agnes Leina, executive director of Il laramatak Community Concerns, being filmed at CBA13 (Photo: Anne Schulthess, IIED) 

4. Long read makes women’s voices count

Listening was fundamental to our gender and land governance work. IIED’s Communications Group guided partner organisations in Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania to carry out in-depth journalistic interviews, forming the basis of a long read.

The project focused on helping African women find space for their voices in land rights and governance decisions; many are now community members whose voices are fully heard in community meetings. 

A group of seated African women gather for a discussion

A group of women gather for a discussion Ghana (Photo: copyright Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT))

5. Global exchange

Our Communications Learning Week was one of 2019’s highlights. Alongside partner organisations from Africa, Latin America and Asia, we explored opportunities, barriers and tactics for connecting with different audiences in different regions.

Popular training sessions in video making, social media and writing skills met participant and staff learning goals and were shaped by 2018 feedback. Our ‘alumni’ Facebook group grows every year, building a supportive global network of communicators.

People undertaking workshop activities

In the ‘audience personas' session we worked together to drill down into the detail of who our audiences are, their goals and what they need from us as communicators (Photo: Anne Schulthess, IIED)

In our five-year strategy, 'Make Change Happen', we recognise that loud, bold communication starts with active listening; throughout 2020 we will continue to challenge ourselves to find new, and refine existing, ways to engage, listen and learn.

This blog was adapted from a story in IIED’s 2019 Annual Review 'Delivering Change'. To read this and learn more about our year’s strongest achievements, download the full report.

About the author

Teresa Corcoran ([email protected]) is content manager in IIED's Communications Group

Kate Green ([email protected]) is managing editor in IIED's Communications Group

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