Shongjog is a site collaboratively owned by the Bangladesh based Ministries, organisations and groups supporting the Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) for Communication with Communities in humanitarian emergencies. During the life time of the initial phase of the DEPP programme in Bangladesh Shongjog will be managed on a day to day basis by the Dhaka based Secretariat. The purpose of the site is to provide a visible expression of the drive by the MSP to see communication with communities (CwC) mainstreamed into response.
Shongjog will feature CwC relevant material in both Bangla and English. There will be a link to the CDAC Network global webpage. It is not a news site and, due to resource restraints, will be more of an online brochure at least in the start-up phase. Should there be an emergency response that the MSP wants to see reflected with regular updates on Songjog, then there would need to be an allocation of resources to support.
Focal points within organisations will have rights to upload material to the Resources[i] and News[ii] sections. The DEPP Secretariat will be responsible to changes to the home page and liaison on technical matters with Thomson Reuters Foundation. Any editorial conflicts will be handled by the MSP.
Shongjog’s two language versions may differ as it is unrealistic to assume translation of all selected materials. The site will however aim to support two of the MSP’s strategic focus areas, namely ‘Advocacy to gain policy support and leverage resources’ and ‘Learning and sharing knowledge’.
This means that there should be an aim to produce quality material in English for potential and existing donors with good case studies, and well-founded Bengali material to inform audiences that could be in government, other agencies or amongst affected communities.
Those searching or using the Shongjog site are likely to be;
CWC Practitioners and other Programme Managers
Academics and students
- Material should reflect positive approaches, inclusivity and collaborative efforts aimed at effective CwC. The language and images used will be important.
Partners in Health, a very well connected and academically based US based medical charity, used quotes to show the commitment of their individual staff and their results, as way of showing what they did in 2015. This is not CwC- (we would have shown quotes from someone caught up in a cyclone who suggested a better system for distributing aid :-). But it shows that other organisations know that using voices attracts people. see http://www.pih.org/blog/2015-the-year-in-quotes
- An aim should be to show a face, some details about the person and a relevant quote as often as possible as this is the essence of our advocacy. People are interested in others.
- The introduction for material uploaded to Resources and the stories posted to News should highlight results, even if they are challenging or unexpected. Ideally they will also suggest how feedback from communities was taken into consideration and acted upon.
- Processes and what was done are also important. Here the most important impression for readers should be that in Bangladesh there is innovation, wide engagement and momentum in a crucial area of disaster response.
An important consideration when developing material is gender. Too often we speak about CwC while not desegregating who we are actually speaking with and about. This means that we may not be accurately reflecting all the inequalities in the communication landscape.
- Published material originated by organisations can be linked from an organisation’s own website to the Resources page with a paragraph specially written for Songjog on why the paper is important and which contains, if possible a quote from a person reflecting on aid, the disaster response etc. Ideally this will be one of those affected. If that is not possible then at least use as a headline or focus a quote from the report that hits the vision of the MSP and the value of CwC- everything is advocacy!
An academic article on the West Africa Ebola outbreak in the New England Journal of Medicine is entitled ‘A Neglected Dimension of Global Security- A Framework for Countering Infectious Disease Crises’. Within the text is the following observation- ‘It is vital...to engage with, and learn from, local people in an open and flexible way'.
This is our quote and niche, even if it is not from a person with a photograph. Our brand, if you like, in this instance, is about giving voice to change. This article and the emphasis on CwC was tweeted by CDAC- Network.
- Stories or material uploaded for News should be original even if it is a version of something published elsewhere. Press Releases for organisations other than the MSP will not be allowed, although notices about combined events can be uploaded.
- In terms of writing, simple is best. Submissions for News should be anything from 200-1,500 words.
- It is the responsibility of organisations uploading material to ensure that it is ‘publication ready’ and has been spell checked, name checked, fact checked etc. Names of organisations will be associated with uploaded material.
- Photographs to illustrate submissions are encouraged. It will be assumed that any required permission has been obtained, that the agency submitting the image owns the rights and good practices have been followed that respect the rights of those involved[iii]. Images need not have been taken by a professional.
An emphasis in material should be on extracting the experience of affected communities and how their views are reflected back into relief efforts.
Should there be a disaster leading to a humanitarian response the MSP may decide to use the site to promote good practise and illustrate how the communication group is working. This may involve the commitment of additional resources and day to day management and editorial judgement. During such an event it is likely that there will be more reason to link posts to the website with social media e.g. #Songjog
The Songjog Brand
Songjog should be seen as a meeting place for those involved with the MSP and as a place where greater value, achieved through combined efforts, can be shown. If it becomes a mark of quality for those involved in CwC and enhanced response it should have an attraction factor which could help membership, cause different organisations to have a link to their websites and use messaging approved by the MSP.
[i] ‘Resources’ are published materials, reports, workshop materials etc. designed to assist practitioners, programmers, academics and government.
[ii] ‘News’ includes stories, blogs, reports on events etc.
[iii] e.g. https://www.unodc.org/pdf/india/news_and_events/photographer_guidelines.pdf