Capitalising, Gaining Influence – Why Communication Matters

URBACT

By URBACT, on February 10th, 2015

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The Roma-NeT II project  follows up on  the Roma-NeT URBACT  project that aimed to motivate cities to improve local service delivery towards Roma populations by making services more accessible, by motivating more active participation from Roma communities and by introducing new interventions. ROMA-NeT members learned a lot about the core themes of Roma inclusion and about the need for a step by step integrated approach, for partnership working and for active involvement of Roma and all nine cities had created a local action plan. The approaches applied are different in each city, but all focus on supporting and improving access to education, health, housing, services and stimulate employment opportunities for working age Roma. The local support groups have continued to meet in the partner cities. A core action for them is to motivate active involvement of Roma people in the local support groups and in the creation of local service responses.

The Roma-NeT transnational partnership is fortunate to have developed many friendships over the last four – five years. The expertise this gives our network is extensive. In some cases, it is even influential. But we haven’t always capitalised on this influence well or even considered who it is we want to influence, how we will do it or why? These are questions that, as practitioners, we should be asking ourselves every day. Our recent Roma-NeT meeting in Glasgow gave us just a small start into considering this.

Taking time to consider who (whether individuals or organisations) we want to influence will really help the actions we want to deliver. It’s all too easy to get caught up in ‘deliverables’ and ‘outputs’ and to forget to take a step back to think about why we are delivering; what we want to achieve in our cities and what the added value really is from our transnational partnerships?

Communications, marketing, media and public relations – often an afterthought for organisations. Mostly thought of at the end to make something look pretty or only consulted in a crisis when things have already gone badly wrong. But this is all too little, too late.

Considering your communications planning at the beginning of any project or programme development not only crystallizes how you will talk to your publics, but more importantly who those publics are. Understanding how your communications plan works side-by-side with your overarching organisational strategy, objective and aims helps everyone in the organisation to understand how to communicate and who to influence.

A well-governed organisation should be happy to incorporate their communications planning into their organisational strategy; the two should work side-by-side with the same aims and complementary outputs.

Not having a strong communications plan in place; for both the good and the bad times; is a bit like making a cake without any eggs and then trying to add the eggs once the cake is baked. The cake wouldn’t rise or be edible, just like your strategy won’t be fit-for-purpose and in the end the whole thing is likely to be a big mess! In fact, to stand the best chance of running successful projects and programmes within your organisation, you need to be sure to get your ingredients lined up carefully and use a proven recipe to make sure it comes together. Different children might not like a fruit tart as much as a chocolate cake and that’s why thinking about who you want to influence and how you are going to do it is really important for continued success.

So – my plea? Please think about your communications early in your planning process; where you have them, use communications professionals to help you. Try to understand the additional and significant impact that good, well-planned communications can have on a project and an organisation and build your reputation capital.

The work we do with URBACT can only make a real difference if it is used to gain influence for good practice to be replicated within local conditions across the EU. Otherwise, why work transnationally at all? We must tell others what we do, when it works and why it sometimes fails and what everyone can do to improve their own practice in cities towards the economic development of fully inclusive societies in the future.

By Alicia Clyde, Thematic Expert - Communication for Inclusion, Roma-NeT Pilot Delivery Phase

Article originally published here.

Foto credits: SImon HuggIns on Flickr.

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