Blending data and humanity: Comms Hub's year of collective narrative building

Disha Arora
Global Campaigns Lead, Comms Hub

At Comms Hub, our data-driven, collective communications model comes together in the form of a compelling illustration included in our strategy document. However, applying that model has been a journey of deep reflections, challenges, adaptations and, of course, an endless stream of conversations and emails.

My wonderful and talented colleagues produce insightful reports based on the rigorous research they do on digital conversations, polling, and public opinion. My role is to take those insights, work closely with our Member Hubs and Key Partners on the ground and transform those findings into impactful campaigns. And, staying true to the economies of scale, we do it in collaboration with coalitions of other civil society organizations (CSOs) and relevant groups and individuals.

Reflecting on our work in the past year or so, there are many clear learnings.

The puzzle of collective communications

Bringing people and groups together for a common cause (or a collective campaign) is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. It's not easy, and sometimes the pieces don't seem to fit. But the trick is to keep looking for common values among the coalition members, to keep listening to what CSOs and groups need, and to keep our eye on the bigger picture. We recommend early engagement with coalitions to identify a common goal or call to action and keep shared values front and centre.

Each place has its own beat, its own rhythm. Common Sense Communications (CSC), our Ukrainian Member Hub, had to change their approach quite a bit when they started working with Ukrainian CSOs working in Germany. Earlier they had only been engaging with organizations and groups working within Ukraine. CSC’s team was flexible and adapted their strategies while running the campaign to keep the coalition engaged.

Data to stories to narrative change

Moving from cold, hard data to warm, engaging insights and transforming them into stories is more art than science. We at Comms Hub like to call it our superpower (applying research to collective communications). And it needs to happen in a timely manner. In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, we need to embrace the fluid nature of data and its implications.

We work hand-in-hand with our network to ensure that together, we weave insights into stories that are customized for the contexts, communities, and geographies. Like in Spain, Laintersección, our Member Hub, beautifully weaved the value of ‘gratitude' into their collective campaign of transforming anti-trans narratives. It was amazing to see how this important value (identified through focus groups) communicated by unusual messengers (grandparents and teachers) could turn our message into something that really resonated with people.

Not all insights have takers

In our engagement and work, we also had a few experiences where the CSOs in the coalitions didn’t agree with what we found out through our research, and we had long discussions with them. On such occasions, we tried to find a middle ground between what CSOs believe in and what our findings are telling us. These weren’t easy conversations, but they were necessary. They pushed us to reflect on what we could do better.

Context is the most important ingredient of the work we do. But, at times, it also takes courage for actors working in social justice and pro-democracy movements to acknowledge that the approach they might have been taking is not appealing to the communities and moving in sync with them.

…but courage needs resources

One of the significant challenges we face in our work is the lack of human resources. As keen as CSOs are to adopt the model of data-driven, collective communications, more often than not, it’s just one person managing the entire communications portfolio of the organization. We at Comms Hub try to provide as much hands-on support and mentorship as possible; however, to scale this model, we need more people.

Be ready to pivot

Being flexible and open to revising strategies is essential in our work. It’s about embracing the iterative process of planning, action, and revision. Each discussion, each meeting, no matter how small, contributes to the bigger picture of our goals.

At times, flexibility may look like a pause. Several regions we work in are affected by ongoing conflicts. In those cases, balancing the drive for change with the need for team care is particularly valuable. Holding spaces for sharing is a good starting point. It's a process that demands not just professional commitment but also personal compassion and understanding.

Small wins and the long road to change

Despite being a young organization, Comms Hub has had a few high points this year, like the results of the elections in Poland and the landmark legislation in Spain. However, for me, the most rewarding win was when I learned that the coalition members we’re working with in Armenia have started to use the language of data-driven communications. They keep going back to the findings of public opinion and digital research in their discussions and meetings. To quote one of my favourite film dialogues, it feels like “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

We know that narrative change is a marathon, not a sprint. This journey from data to narrative change isn't just about strategies and analytics; it's about connecting, listening, understanding, and working together towards a shared vision. Watching our network begin to embrace data-driven communication approaches for narrative change is a testament to this gradual but important transformation.

Comms Hub is registered as Foundation International Communications Hub (FICH) with the Spanish national Register of Foundations under the number 2601. Read our privacy policy and legal disclaimer.

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