Is Effective Messaging for Development More Critical than Ever?

With the international affairs budget facing a proposed 32% reduction from FY17 and little understanding among the American public that it is less than 1% of the federal budget, the Society for International Development – Washington (SID-W) recently convened a panel of communications experts to consider the importance of communications. In particular, the panel looked at how to frame international development successes and challenges, the need for more robust outreach, and the success of education efforts with members of the U.S. Congress and how it might be translated to a wider American audience.

The panel was moderated by MSI Vice President for Public Affairs, Ellen Yount, who also serves as a senior advisor to USAID on their overseas communications efforts. She was joined by Former Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID’s Bureau of Legislative & Public Affairs, Stephanie Bluma; Lester Munson, Vice President, International, BGR Government Affairs; and Moira Whelan, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy at the State Department and currently a partner with BlueDot Strategies.

“Many of us in the international development community have long understood not just the importance of effective project implementation, but as importantly, communicating the results and impact of our work,” said Ms. Yount. “But in today’s climate, it’s more important than ever that we not only show the very real human impact of our work, but also show how our modest investments in development alongside diplomacy and defense, help us advance America’s interests at home and abroad.”

MSI has a strong focus on strategic communications both as a partner to USAID on its flagship Development Outreach and Communications (DOC) Training Program – which has helped Missions successfully raise awareness and understanding of foreign assistance among host country audiences – and by offering specific assistance to USAID Missions. MSI has also worked directly with government bodies and officials, to help them to improve communications and increase transparency.

In addition to Ellen Yount’s participation in the Annual Conference, MSI President Emeritus Larry Cooley was recently elected to serve as president of SID-International, after 13 years of service in various SID leadership positions.

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