The Future of Communications as Aid
June 9, 2013 Editor 0
What does communications in humanitarian and crisis response look like in 5 years time? This was the question I posed to the panel session I moderated at the Aid and International Development Forum on the issue of social media in humanitarian response.
No more beneficiaries
First, in 2018 I expect us to look at the “beneficiary” moniker as not just passé but also a slightly derogatory term no longer allowed in the development discourse. Beneficiary implies passive acceptance of aid as something done to a people, not with them, regardless of the intentions.
Better terms we could be using by then include customers, clients, co-creators, or my current favorite, constituents, to show the fundamental shift that is happening in international development, and globally in every industry and activity.
From us to them to them to them
Communications are changing rapidly. Where once those in positions of power held all the information closely and informed people in one-way streams of TV, radio, or print media, new social media technologies (pick one, or all of them) are changing the fundamental relationships between us and them – regardless of who is “us” or “them”.
Currently, we have a more balanced flow, two-way communications instead of one-way information. People in the developing world are taking their opinions on development to everything from Twitter and Facebook to MXit and Whatsap to tell us what they think of development efforts – be they local, national, or international in origin.
The days of silent, passive recipients of aid is over
In the future, probably event before 2018, communications in aid will be more from those in the middle of the crisis situation out to the world than any of us in development can imagine. What I can imagine is a future where those in a crisis tell us what they need and want – and don’t – and are loud and forceful enough in their communications that they drive the development process, not us.
That is a bright, communicated future I am excited to embrace. And so should you. Its not like you have any other option. Its not about us anymore.
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