Category Archives: Communication for Development

Get Strategic to Succeed by Semesters End

Last time I talked about finding the connections within your course work and how that makes the work relevant to your life. I would like to add to that by emphasizing the philosophy of Work Smarter, Not Harder. This is the point: multi-tasking. Most college students have found a way to become efficient at time management and balancing the different demands of their courses and personal lives. Sure, sometimes there is a slip up and we forget to turn something in, but for the most part, our days are a calculation of how much we can get done in the allotted time or before our brains give out.


What I want to teach you is multitasking on steroids. I like to call it Strategic Learning Efficiency Engaged Purposefully (SLEEP). I’m just kidding, I have never called it that before. I call it, doing one thing for multiple classes. Does that mean I turn in the same paper, or the same work for each class? Of course not! Media studies does not have the same learning targets as web design or content strategy, or information studies. But that does not mean that I can’t work on the same project for all of them.

How it works

At least one class every semester will have some sort of self-chosen topic for a project that you will work. Perhaps it is a proposal for a business course, or a collection of activism posts for social media, maybe you have been assigned with creating videos for a design course, you get my point. Now, instead of just picking some random thing to write about or research or create, why not connect it to a cause or a dream or a family business. Something that has meaning for you in your real life, something that could use some attention and nurturing. Then you set yourself to creating for this cause.

Here is an example for you

For this Saturday morning MDST course we will need to turn in a learning journal (a portfolio of sorts). Meanwhile, in the very same classroom on Tuesday nights I have a Writing for the Web course that requires me to make a website. Now, I could make a lot of terrible websites, but I decided to be strategic. I decided combine them both by making the topic of my website for the WRIT course be the subject of my learning journal for MDST. Make sense?

Why it works

By using the same project for multiple courses lets you see the interconnectedness of disciplines. Remember that from last time? No field of study operates in a vacuum. Nor should it. Using the same project for multiple classes provides you with the chance to think about a subject, problem or project on different levels. This gives you the chance to end up with a really rich and layered analysis of a real world situation. It also allows you to build on your past work, thereby making each project a little more meaningful, which is a key to knowledge, not just memorization of the names of some theories which you will forget by next semester. You are integrating the prior learning and scaffolding upon it to form your shining tower of world conquering knowledge…I mean…ahem. Want to know a bit about the science behind why this works? Great!

Start by watching this video by David Brooks, author of The Social Animal. 

Need a little bit more?

If you are still struggling with juggling course loads, start with the basics. This page offers five solid strategies for multitasking.

Are you more of a put it off until the last minute operator? You are not alone. Procrastination is innate, and for many people, it works well.

Back to the Internet

I hope you all had (or are having) a nice weekend. I recorded a little video when I arrived back in Madagascar’s capital yesterday to share some thoughts about communication for social change and the communication planning process that  we started discussing on the first day of class. Have a look:

Communication Planning

Different organizations use different models, but basically, everything starts with some kind of analysis to help us understand what’s happening around the issue we’re working on. Once you’ve developed a solid understanding of the issue, the barriers, the motivators, and all of other associated factors involved. The thing is, this takes a long time. And once you have the data, you have to think about all the stakeholders involved – government agencies, NGOs, people in the communities – it’s a lot to think about. In our work in class, your groups are somewhere between the first two steps – you’ve developed a pretty solid understanding of the situation (or at least as much as you can in such a short time) and now you’re on to the second step, which is called “Focusing and Designing” in the C-planning model. In this step, the first thing you need to think about is who you will be communicating with. You can get some ideas about this from the Theory of Change you did last week and from thinking through the “people analysis”, the concentric rings we completed.

SMART Communication Objectives

Once you tentatively know WHO you’re talking to, which you should have derived from the information you have from your research, you can propose some communication objectives for these different audiences. Communication objectives should be SMART, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. This next video is a nice summary of these characteristics, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch it now:

I’m hoping that each group has thought about some communication objectives and that you will post these on the blog or on the wiki. If you have, please add a comment with a link so I can go check out your work. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!