Last week, more than two dozen communications professionals from around the world gathered at MCC headquarters for this years Communications College, a unique hands-on conference among peers to exchange best practices and lessons learned in development communications. These professionals carry out the public outreach, media relations, and overall communications duties at the organizations—often referred to as Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCAs)—responsible for implementing the poverty reduction programs in each of their countries. Their productive exchanges deepened our collective understanding about the issues we face every day as communicators: building the capacity of a press corps, managing media relationships, speech writing, managing strategic—and sometimes crisis—communications planning, expanding press freedom, organizing press conferences and outreach events, leveraging new social media, and coordinating with civil society, NGOs, and donors. Equipped with fresh insights and useful practices, our hope is that our communications colleagues have returned home with new perspectives on how best to tell the important stories of how their countries compacts are improving the lives of the poor.
Our colleague Elene Aladashvili from Georgia stated that MCCs Communications College is a chance to meet other colleagues from all around the world, exchange ideas and best practices, tackle the problems together and enhance communications skills, but it also serves as a great opportunity to touch the very core of what MCC is all about. Every time I come back from Communications College, my head is full of new ideas and opportunities. That helps me a lot in my everyday work at MCA Georgia.
Communications College is not just about the local MCA professionals learning from us in Washington; it is also about us learning from them. Passion is the word I would use to sum up what I learned from the MCA communicators. They come face to face with the harsh realities of poverty and have the daunting task of managing the expectations of beneficiaries on a daily basis. Communicating results, especially long-term results, is not an easy task. It requires innovation, creativity, diplomacy, and patience. The MCA communicators each have a passion for communicating the results of their poverty reduction programs because they are personally vested in ensuring the success of their respective compacts.
Transparency and accountability demand the freedom of vibrant, honest, informed communications. The more our communications colleagues worldwide can shine light on what is unfolding during every stage of compact implementation—on the reforms underway and the results unfolding—the better informed citizens will become to hold their governments responsible to deliver fully on the promise of each MCC investment.
What we all know is this: Strategic, effective communications is how we can inspire action and affect change that will create an opportunity for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. Listening to and learning from one another during this years Communications College reaffirmed and re-energized our shared commitment to win the fight against global poverty.