Reimagining Social Good Communications in a Hyper-Connected World. Or, how to talk about poverty without pity or silver bullets
Charitable portrayals of “helping” often conjure up victimhood and passivity in order to validate the assistance being given. There is a growing awareness that these portrayals uphold, rather than counteract, historical and politicized notions of “the other.” This leads to reinforced narrative frames and deepened ignorance. Thus storytelling in the social good sector can and must be done with careful consideration of the notions of voice, agency, and complexity. Why hasn’t been happening already? When our nonprofit communications take queues from institutions and corporations that are constantly selling, selling, selling, we do a disservice to our collective vision. We know the lasting, equity-bringing changes for which people around the world work is born of something much more vital and much more enduring. When it comes to communicating about “doing good,” what happens when we let go of convincing anyone of anything?
Jennifer Lentfer is a farm girl turned international aid worker turned writer/poet, writing coach, and communications strategist. She created the blog, how-matters.org in 2010, and was named among Foreign Policy Magazine’s “100 women to follow on Twitter” at @intldogooder in 2012. Her first book, Smart Risks: How small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, features the growing community of grantmakers that find and fund visionary leaders around the world. With her students at Georgetown University in 2014, she published the popular guide, “The Development Element: Guidelines for the future of communicating about the end of global poverty.” Lentfer currently teaches “Storytelling and Communicating for Change” in the University of Vermont Masters in Leadership for Sustainability program. Given that her hometown of Bruning, Nebraska, USA has less than 300 people, it’s no wonder Lentfer conceives of small, local groups as powerful forces for social change.
Contact: jenlentfer [at] gmail.com