MSI Helps Improve USAID’s Ability to Tell its Story Around The World

Since 2005, MSI has worked directly with USAID’s Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs to implement the Development Outreach and Communications (DOC) Training Program. This is the agency’s flagship communication training program, contributing to efforts to raise understanding and awareness of U.S. foreign assistance abroad.

Contributing to USAID’s strong commitment to transparency and results reporting, MSI has worked in Washington, D.C. and in the field to improve awareness of foreign assistance activities and more importantly, their impact.

Using innovative adult learning methodologies, MSI has developed more than a dozen strategic communications modules and conducted more than 20 trainings for USAID’s overseas communications specialists and senior Agency officials. Topics include crisis communications, media relations and message development and have also been expanded in recent years to include social media and video production training.

Broadly, the trainings and day-to-day assistance have helped USAID to increase awareness of its activities and improve attitudes toward U.S. foreign assistance, as well monitor the impact of its outreach and communications activities with local populations. MSI also provided specialized assistance to several USAID offices.

The project has contributed to changing USAID’s approach to communications, its staffing levels and the degree of institutional and financial support provided for domestic and overseas communications work. For instance, when the project started, only 30 communicators were in place worldwide; today, USAID boasts a network of more than 140 communications professionals, including many former journalists, PR professionals and writers who have all been through MSI-organized and implemented training courses. A majority of USAID offices now implement communications strategies, conduct baseline polling and ensure that communications are integrated into project design.

In addition to the skills-based trainings, MSI developed a first-ever Survival Manual for Communications, which won a number of industry awards. And for the first time, several paid media campaigns were launched integrating radio, print and television to inform overseas audiences. MSI has also placed a strong emphasis on results-based planning and has developed standardized performance monitoring plans (PMPs) to assist Missions with monitoring the impact of communications activities.

The work under the DOC Program has been lauded in a number of reports, including several conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). USAID’s Subcommittee on Public Outreach report, Why the Story That U.S. Foreign Assistance Is Working Must Be Told, commends the program and advocates for its continuation and expansion.

As part of the project, MSI works closely with USAID to organize and conduct training activities, which bring together USAID and U.S. Embassy personnel to coordinate a whole of government message to host country audiences. The partnership also improves support provided by USAID’s Washington, D.C. headquarters on communication activities.