Talking Matters!

Dialogue about natural resource revenues is the very essence of the EITI.

Dialogue about natural resource revenues is the very essence of the EITI.  In fact, some people would say that the EITI’s success in delivering meaningful results for people in each of the 37 implementing countries depends on engaging people in dialogue about the reports.

Can we really have any meaningful dialogue without talking?  

No! That’s why for EITI ‘talking matters.

Liberia is a classic example. It holds the record as the fastest country to move from EITI Candidate to EITI Compliant. The LEITI secretariat earned that honour largely thanks to the effort and commitment they made to engaging communities across the country in dialogue about the EITI and the reports.

To learn how to deal with the challenges of engaging people in the best ways, some 20 people from 15 countries convened in Sydney ahead of the EITI Global Conference.  For almost three days, they learned techniques and discussed strategies for stimulating dialogue around extractives revenue and how to do it effectively. The workshop also helped participants learn from the experience of their colleagues.

“It was extremely useful,” said Zainab Ahmed, National Coordinator for the EITI in Nigeria (NEITI). “The communication tools, the strategies, how to identify stakeholders, and the practical sessions, we will definitely use this when we get home,” she added. 

The first day focused on the ‘building blocks’ of effective EITI communication.  A key point was the need to prioritise different stakeholders’ based on their importance to EITI’s success and then tailor messages that will ‘speak’ to each group’s particular interests.

“Real world” versus the “ideal world”

Anders Kråkenes, Communication Manager for the International Secretariat encouraged the participants to be realistic, to curb their ambition to try to “do it all.”  After all, like minerals and oil which are finite resources, money for engaging people in dialogue is limited. EITI communicators have to make the most of what they have. Budgets work as a reality check.

What does that mean in practice?

Anders explained, “not everyone who’s interested in the EITI has to be engaged for the EITI to succeed. 

The lead trainer, Birgitte Jallov stressed the importance of engaging people in dialogue as a key to helping them “own” the EITI process.

“The goal is to move people from being the objects of the EITI to being the ‘subjects’ of it.” 

We do that by raising awareness, attracting their interest and keeping them engaged throughout the process, not only around the reports. It’s a tough task.

“It’s difficult to keep people’s attention. We have to time our communication so our messages don’t get lost in all the other news,” noted Carlos from Peru.

Communicating the EITI and engaging people can’t happen effectively without the media.

So, on the second day of the workshop, participants discussed key techniques for engaging the media and getting their messages across quickly and succinctly. Armed with the concepts needed to do that, they then ‘faced the sharks’-- testing their skills in simulations of real life interviews with seasoned Australian journalists.  For some people, it was a real eye-opener.  Yet everyone seemed to go away feeling emboldened, knowing they could get their messages across when they have to.  

Whether it’s on TV, in road shows or in other ways, Anders assured everyone that communicators are crucial to making what they talk about, matter. 

“We all know how the resource curse has affected our countries. As EITI communicators, we suffer from another curse, the curse of knowledge.  What we have to remember is we all know the EITI inside and out. The challenge for us is to boil down the details into messages that people can understand and relate to-- that mean something to them.”  Zero in on the ideas that ‘talk’ to them, get them thinking and move them to engage.

It takes time, creativity and planning but that  is the kind of ‘talking’ that will help make the EITI really matter, for the people who matter most--  citizens.