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Lessons learned on communication for advocacy

Organizations + social movements

By Tarick Gracida, Communications Coordinator – Fundación Avina / Pulsante

For three years together with more than 65 organizations, collectives, and social movements, Pulsante co-dreamed-planned-created-implemented-experimented. The result is an enriching legacy around narratives, storytelling, and communication strategies (traditional and non-traditional).

At the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, when Pulsante launched its open calls, and as the applications were arriving, there was a percentage that began to mark a route, a number that evidenced a giant debt to be attended, two digits that underlined a civic space need. The last question on the application forms for organizations was “Describe what type of additional (non-financial) support you would need to achieve the project objectives”. In a pandemic context, with governments announcing curfews, social protests on the streets, increases in gender violence, attacks on journalists, and threats to democracies, the largest petition in the 1,200 applications received from organizations and collectives from Latin America was support on communications, with 38%.

And everything changed…

With that 38% in mind and systematizing the needs that have arisen along the way, Pulsante’s team had to dismantle the non-financial communication support structure proposed at the beginning. Based on learnings and analytics, this support fully iterated, expanded, took on a life of its own, and Conductual was born: the first space for organizations and social movements on narratives, storytelling, and communication strategies designed based on connecting with people to achieve social change.

Structural changes cannot be achieved if communications only connect with the people who are already convinced. So collectively, together with the allies, Pulsante co-designed new strategies with communication actions that in some cases the allies had never tested before.

What have we learned??
Some takeaways from Pulsante’s lessons learned:
1) There can be no communication strategies disconnected from achieving the project goals. Civic space must be strengthened around this great challenge.

2) Applications with communication strategies that are only aimed at people who are already convinced about the subject cannot be accepted.

3) Faced with the social weariness of everything that represents conflict or problem, through non-financial communication support, organizations and movements should experiment with new narratives and storytelling that manage to connect with target audiences, and that are not only created from the confrontation.

4) Any project that seeks to connect with people cannot plan a communication strategy without a budget dedicated to the costs of communicating per se, beyond salaries and/or hiring agencies or consultants.

5) The pool of communication and design agencies with which it is intended to carry out consultancies to support the allies, cannot be non-inclusive agencies, with teams made up only of men. Also, in the pool there must be agency options made up one hundred percent by women and diversities.

6) Communication strategies cannot be just reactive and isolated communication pieces without any planning, they must have clear planning processes in the short, medium and long term based on the projects’ goals.

Thank you to each one of the people from the organizations, collectives, movements and Pulsante’s Steering Committee, for so much inspiration, freedom to experiment, learning, achievements, and many work hours for a better Latin America.

Thank you for trusting in Pulsante.

Here is the full Communications’ Brief Recap (includes all the takeaways, and the voice of some organizations and social movements on their communication processes).