Community Leaders Learning To Communicate For Change

By Kai Sian Pau (Paupi), NSI

A two day ‘Spokesperson & Journalism’ workshop (14th December 2022 – 15th December 2022) was organized by SIGNIS Malaysia for North South Initiative (NSI) for the purpose of enhancing advocative skills of migrant and refugee community leaders with regards to public  social communications.

It was a valuable experience which gave the participants more ideas and insights into the world of communication or specifically advocacy. Mr. Augustine Anthuvan (former Channel NewsAsia Executive Producer for international affairs), himself a treasure trove of knowledge executed an empowering workshop that targeted the necessary skills of communicating and engaging with the public and media.

This was a critical and well-planned workshop that took place at the Council of Churches Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, Selangor and was attended by 11 very capable and determined migrant and refugee leaders and also second liners. Most of them have more than five years experience in community organizing, case management or social work. SIGNIS Malaysia & NSI were pivotal in organizing and preparing this workshop based on the needs of the community leaders and their second liners.

Some of the activities which were carried out were techniques of delivering speeches, experiential writing and also how to handle press conferences. The participants learnt  not only on how to talk as a spokesperson, but also the techniques or structure of making their public messaging ‘solid, short and appealing’. In addition to that, Mr. Augustine Anthuvan also said that their public messaging need to be evidence based and narrativized or packaged suiting to the format or platform that is instrumentalized by the community leaders when communicating both internally and externally.

According to Mr. Augustine Anthuvan during the workshop, that in reporting ‘nowadays people do not read long articles, people want to read the news that are straight to the point and clear in its explanation’. Journalistic fundamentals have not changed he says, however the medium is the one that is constantly changing and in this age, the age of the Social Media, communicating becomes ‘everyone’s job’. The nature of (social) media today being instant and popular as well as keeping in mind the attention span of the audience are some of the factors that make communication practitioners in general, or activists like the migrant & refugee leaders, specifically to be aware of and also craft their messages in line with these realities.

Through this workshop the participants were encouraged to capture the daily lives of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. Their sufferings, adversities and joyful moments need to be told in an objective yet emotive manner. This is so that the readers or news consumers will really know what being a migrant in Malaysia is all about. There is a strong tendency of news reporting and storytelling to be depressing and frustrating. As a counter current to this the idea of Solutions Journalism was introduced by Mr. Augustine Anthuvan for the community leaders to depict a more inspiring picture to life. It is extremely important that communication practitioners bring out or talk about the sustainable and effective practices or examples in storytelling which in turn change mindsets and embark on action to find/inquire into practical and contextualized approaches to tackle the complex problems at both policy and grassroots level.

Community or leadership empowerment/capacity building in this form (spokesperson & journalistic skills) does in a large part sharpen the communicative aspect of the advocacy that the community leaders or developers often engage in. The practice of being an effective spokesperson is definitely a matter of pratice and with the persistent effort, deep reflection and research into the skills learnt from time to time, the community leaders will make an impact no matter how small it is. The question that really needs to be asked is if that change will be lasting and also have the potential to spark a greater degree of change that can transform socio-political realities as well as ones of human experience.

______________

About NSI:

North South Initiative (NSI) is a human rights and social justice organisation that advocates for migrant and refugee rights. It was established in 2014 by Adrian Anthony Pereira and Anne Beatrice Jacobs, two long-time activists who began their practice of promoting and fighting for justice with experiences in various NGOs in Malaysia such as Pusat KOMAS, Dignity International, IMCS (International Movement for Catholic Students) and Engage Media.

About SIGNIS Malaysia:

SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication (www.signis.net). It is a lay public international association with members in over 100 countries, with its secretariat in Brussels, Belgium. SIGNIS is officially recognised by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and also has consultative status with UNESCO and the Council of Europe. As the local national association, SIGNIS Malaysia is the representative and member of the international SIGNIS, with voluntary members who are communications and media professionals.