New online course is changing the way activists communicate

New online course is changing the way activists communicate

A newly launched free online course is changing the way advocates and activists communicate.

“If you are frustrated about the way your communications are going, if you are always talking to the same people, if you are not sure your messages have impact, this course will help you find the answers,” says Joel Bedos, international coordinator of Sogi Campaigns, who co-created the course with the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH).

Advocacy is about influencing and persuading individuals and institutions to change. But many advocates overlook the vital role communications plays or have misconceptions about how communication works. 


The Communications for Advocacy course will challenge people to rethink communications


It is based on the lived-experiences of activists and advocates who are passionate about their causes and successful at what they do. Using real-world examples, videos and quizzes, it has been designed to benefit people with a range of abilities, from experienced communications professionals to anyone working to change hearts and minds. People can follow the ten-unit course – available in 5 languages - all the way through or choose topics that match their interests and availability. Those who complete a significant proportion can access teaching materials, enabling them to train their peers.

“For a lot of advocates it is not obvious that communications is essential to the process of influencing,” says Nina Hoeve, PITCH’s communications lead and course co-creator.


This course shows people how to tap into the power of communications and put it at the heart of their advocacy.


It will show you how you can use communications more strategically to have more influence and impact on those people and institutions you need to change to meet your goals.”

The key ingredients to effective communication

The course has been designed to help advocates and activists think strategically about communications, understand their target audiences, build impactful messages, harness the power of storytelling, mobilise supporters and conduct successful social media campaigns.


Effective communications is about influencing people’s attitudes, not simply providing information,” says Nina.


To do this you have to do your homework, know who your audiences are, what triggers them, and where you can connect in terms of values.

“A lot of advocates spend 80% of their time countering attacks, and they do it because it is instinctive – when you are attacked it is natural to fight back,” Joel adds. “But this course makes people consider how useful this is for their overall strategy.

“You have to talk to different audiences in different ways – that’s what is meant by strategic communications. For instance, if people are very violently opposed to you, you have to try to neutralise them. If you try to persuade them you are wasting your time.

“People who are in what we call the ‘moveable middle’ can be influenced by building on joint values, by finding the common ground between you and them. And if people are already on your side, you have to mobilise them.”

Those taking the course can expect to gain insight into one of the vital ingredients of successful communications: finding stories that connect with audiences on an emotional level.


When we are talking about persuasion and mobilising people, you have to tap into people’s emotions, explains Joel


“For people to change they need to have a big incentive and this often comes from having a strong emotional response. If you want to trigger people you have to find something that speaks to their lives.”

A lasting legacy

The course began as in-country training in which activists from nine PITCH countries participated. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the course has been redesigned to work online, meaning activists and advocates from across the world can now benefit.

Advocates who have already taken the course include those from the Ambassador for Youth and Adolescent Reproductive Health Program (AYARHEP) in Kenya. Afterwards, AYARHEP ran a social media campaign challenging the shortages of Septrin in public health facilities, a drug that prevents opportunistic infections among people living with HIV. They departed from their usual more ad-hoc approach to social media and developed a strategy that targeted audiences that not yet supported their cause. The campaign trended on Twitter and led to a public commitment from the Ministry of Health to restock the drug, in what was a huge advocacy win for them.


AYARHEP did the course then went back and did things differently, and it paid off,” says Nina


Both her and Joel hope the course will be shared far and wide to create lasting social change.

“This online course, which will exist as a free resource after the programme ends for activists and advocates worldwide, is part of the PITCH programme’s legacy,” adds Nina.

"We hope this course supports people at the heart of social movements and allows them to capitalise on the unprecedented opportunities our fast changing communications landscape offers them."

This course takes you through the basics of communications for advocacy. It is designed to support you as advocates and activists. But can be useful for anyone who uses communications for social change. It consists of ten lessons that you can follow at your own pace, in your own time.

To take part in the course visit

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