Emergency Communication: Caritas building global coordination

There is a rising need to represent fairly and we have a larger responsibility to communicate the needs and the humanity that we are privileged to work with. This was the opening message from Caroline Brennan, facilitator of the workshop and Emergency Communications Director of Humanitarian Response Department from Catholic Relief Services on day one of the three days Emergency Communication Workshop at Caritas Internationalis Office in Rome.

It was a highly interactive workshop to share and develop skills and techniques to real-life situations in communications for the current issues faced by the Caritas member organisations during emergencies. The workshop was attended by the senior communicators from different Caritas Confederation member organisations from October 15-17, 2019 to have an effective, credible, and coordinated communication during emergencies.

The Emergency Communication Workshop attendees shared and discussed the internal challenges of capturing field content, key communication needs of donors, and perspectives of global Caritas coordination for effective emergency response communication. Caritas India shared the challenges in gathering content from the field during emergencies and how it is been managed at the organisation level.

The workshop evaluated the best practice from the Nepal earthquake emergency response and suggested plans for CI MO for emergency communications coordination for a scale-up. Nana Anto-Awuakye, Head of World News in CAFOD shared the emergency communications coordination at Nepal earthquake emergency response. Different teams including members from donor agency and implementing member organisation working in the emergencies analysed the network response and proposed areas of improvement along with a definite plan through a world café model. Members proposed to have visibility of Caritas at the radar screen, generate success stories for replication, proper briefing on the roles, formation of a steering group, frequent meetings of the communicators, identification of local resources, ToR for Communication Working Group, etc.

Market stalls were organised for sharing the successes and perspectives of different member organisation on their work in emergencies. The team visited all the eight stalls to learn and interact with the respective members to get a greater understanding and best practices.

Communication Workshop is incomplete without discussing the crisis communications. “Disaster and crisis do happen. Therefore, it is a must to think beforehand. It’s not a comfortable situation, especially in the first phase of the crisis, gathering information is vital and a lot of time it’s not possible. So, we work with an incomplete set of information. Therefore, putting a crisis management plan in place in the organisation is imperative”, Valentine Morgan, Communications Manager of SCIAF shared about crisis communications. He shared about the various aspects of managing media and communications in a crisis. He insisted to have a crisis management team with composition, plan of action, messaging, a control mechanism in communication, and continually monitor and review actions and messaging in crisis communication.

The storytelling session helped the participants to work with a diverse group of people with varied experiences, insights, and situations in creating a common human-interest story for a greater impact. It was an insightful experience and helped to understand what is possible and what is not possible. The ideas helped to grow their perspective in a wider spectrum with a perfect blend of concepts, emotions, and influence.

Nicole Clements, Content Strategist Lead/Media at Caritas Australia and Jean Népo Bironkwa, Communication et Mobilisation des Ressources at Caritas Burundi shared the practical and productive ways to prepare videos using smartphones in the field. The participants also used the tips and recommendations shared by the experts in developing 45 seconds video.

The workshop was unique in terms of perspective building and garnering support towards global Caritas coordination for effective communication.