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From December 14 to 18, 2018, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (C.C.S.L) held a workshop on communication with Claudia Wolf, CSSL Communication and Advocacy Advisor and Cornelia Varwig, a Freelance Science Journalist in Germany. The workshop was funded by Bread for the World, a German Christian Development service. The aims of the workshop: Reflect on widespread communication practices of NGO’s and their communication and project staff, as well as journalists in Sierra Leone, and discuss its challenges. The workshop also equipped the participants with a toolkit of communication strategies, e.g. interview techniques, writing of press releases and newsletters, usage of social media, and how to deal with fake news, which are especially abundant on Whatsapp.

The workshop approached was from a “science perspective”, i.e. the contents discussed were related to e.g. conservation, climate change, health, and agriculture. Such topics are especially prominent in Conservation Society’s projects, and they also are part of the work of other NGOs and journalists, who – besides CSSL staff – were among the participants.

Reporting on science topics requires special skills, since science includes empirical studies. This can lead to challenges of “translating” research findings into the language of a specific target audience. For this reason, we included team work on different media pieces, e.g. newspaper articles. Participants discussed those pieces with respect to questions like: Is this an example for science communication? If yes, why? And if not – what is it? Possibly an opinion or PR?

The workshop revealed that, in many NGOs the importance of communicating project-related activities to the public, members, or donors, is not recognized. Some communication staff criticized that their activities are underfunded and that equipment like microphone or camera are lacking. Their suggestion: A workshop for the Heads of NGOs to achieve their full support. Participants also pointed out that among many working environments – including NGOs – communication and information transfer does not work very well, which can be due to the lack of regular meetings, regular updates and regular presentations. In collaboration with Bread for the World, CSSL hopes to address such challenges in future projects.

Submitted By:

Claudia Wolf                                                                                                                                          Communication and Advocacy Advisor, CSSL

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