Significant, lasting change requires sustained intention by a diverse array of partners and the ability to resonate with the values and worldviews of those needing to be involved and persuaded to action. Meeting this challenge requires much more than traditional forms of communication, such as newsletters, reports or brochures. It requires strategic communication— the kind of well-planned, purposeful and reciprocal efforts that can realize the potential of partnerships by building quality relationships, mutual understanding, shared commitment and action.
Communities are complex. Even with a clear purpose and effective methods, it can be challenging to recruit and motivate partners with a single priority or message. People have their own lived experiences and priorities. Fortunately, healthy community change can address a broad array of issues and priorities, especially when conversations are conducted with an open mind that seeks opportunity and common interest.
An additional part of the challenge is to identify the deep cultural habits of thought and expectation (i.e., frames) held by both allies of change and defenders of the status quo, understand one’s own frames and create consistent messages that resonate with people at that level. Effective communication is a central part of the long-term success of healthy community partnerships because it is so essential to facilitative leadership, capacity building and effective advocacy.
And it is not easy! Here are some of the core lessons and principles about communication we have gleaned from community partnerships.