Messages that work

Martin O'Brien

‘He expanded the definition of “us” and shrank the definition of “them”.’ This was the core of Bill Clinton’s eulogy at the funeral of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader turned peacemaker in Northern Ireland. Solidarity, too, depends on a broader sense of ‘us’ and a narrower sense of ‘them’. It’s easy to be in solidarity with people like us. Unfortunately, the world is now witnessing a growth of ‘them’, with a narrow sense of solidarity sold as a patriotic resurgence. The solidarity that underpinned the 1951 Convention on Refugees has been reinterpreted in a way that allows governments to ignore global responsibilities to those most at risk.

What can be done if calls to solidarity no longer have the same resonance? Philanthropy is beginning to show a greater interest in the part that messaging can play in shaping more effective approaches to migration and refugee protection.

In the UK, for example, several donors have provided significant support for work on the way migration is presented. EPIM (The European Programme for Integration and Migration, the joint funder collaborative on migration) working with the Social Change Initiative (SCI) and the European Foundation Centre’s Diversity Migration and Integration Group, recently held events in Brussels for donors and civil society on the topic, and a number of donors are now considering how best to advance this work in Europe.

With the support of the Human Dignity Foundation, SCI recently partnered with Purpose to commission segmented opinion polling in France and Germany to get a better sense of what various clusters of the public think, why they think it, and what messages address their concerns.

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