How can we ensure communications are human-centred, empathetic and engaging?

This online written discussion exchanged perspectives, examples, and experiences on how to communicate difficult social issues effectively.



Talking and writing about people’s experiences of social issues is important in creating engagement and positive action to tackle the challenges. However, navigating the complexities of communicating with sensitivity and profound respect can be daunting. This online written discussion invites you to join others from around the world in delving into the nuances of sensitively communicating and personalising challenging topics. By sharing your insights, experiences, and examples we will bring together best practices in one place so that we can all benefit from communicating with dignity.


  • Annabel Beales, Collaboration Lead, Business Fights Poverty
  • Bridget Cubble, Strategic Marketing Lead, Fairtrade Foundation
  • Carolyn Tarr, Executive Director, Rebel Spirit Collective
  • Elsie Wandera, CEO, Heroes for Change
  • Kalkidan Lakew Yihun, Program Coordinator, Women Respond, Women’s Economic Justice Care
  • Margaret Mwale-Mkandawire, Lecturer, University of Zambia
  • Michael Sani, CEO, Play Verto
  • Nick Rosen, Programme Communications Manger, TechnoServe
  • Rochelle Atizado, Senior Advisor Partnerships and Special Initiatives, UN Foundation
  • Sarah Jane Saltmarsh, Communications, BRAC
  • Timothy Fort, Eveleigh Professorship in Business Ethics, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Moderator: Katie Hyson, Director of Thought Leadership and COO, Business Fights Poverty


  1. Where are the examples of exemplary social impact communications that centrally feature individuals directly affected by the issues at hand?
  2. What strategies can be employed to guarantee the effectiveness human-centred communications aimed at social impact?
  3. How can we better work together to more effectively develop human-centred messages of positive social impact?

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Hi everyone, my name is Bridget Cubble and I work at the Fairtrade Foundation. I’m looking forward to this discussion tomorrow. Here is my Linkedin.


Hi! My name is SJ, I head up thought leadership and content at BRAC, LI here -


Hello wonderful humans. My name is Michael Sani and I am the chief exploration officer at Play Verto. I have been in the social impact eco-system for the last 14 years. I’m really looking forward to the session tomorrow - such a cool concept and vehicle. Here’s my LinkedIn


Hi, everyone! I’m Nick, program communications manager at TechnoServe. You can find my LinkedIn here. Really looking forward to this discussion!


Hello everyone! My name is Kal, Program Coordinator at CARE. See my LinkedIn here. Excitingly looking forward to this discussion!


Greetings All. My name is Tim Fort. I am a professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. here is my LinkedIn:


Hello, everyone. My name is Rochelle Atizado. I work on global partnerships and special initiatives at the United Nations Foundation in New York. Looking forward to connecting with you and convening on such an important topic. Here’s my LinkedIn:


Hi All, welcome to our Written Discussion today - please do introduce yourself and our first question today is:

Would love to share three human-centered pieces from the United Nations Foundation, featuring local stories from Brazil and Dominica. Take a glimpse into their stories of activism, resilience and leadership, alongside compelling imagery.

  1. Meet 3 Women in Brazil Who Are Protecting the Amazon Rainforest — and Indigenous Rights

  2. For The Caribbean’s Last Indigenous Community, Sustainability Is Survival

  3. Early Warning: Forecasting the Next Superstorm


Hello everyone, It’s a great question. International tea day was this Tuesday – This post is great because it is specific – it shows the person we are talking about and they are representing themselves as much as possible in the format of the channel. The photograph was taken by the NAPP (the Fairtrade Network of Asia and Pacific Producers) and a photographer from the area, so was gathered in an environment/landscape understood well by those recording the content for use. There was a people centered post for the Tea day, and a post around products for consumers. Both featured people in an authentic way which isn’t always easy when linking shopping to impact stories. This is the product focussed one


Great question to start us all off today!

I really admire communications and evaluation initiatives that give narrative control to the communities being served. The Everyday Justice Project is a great example. It provides community members in rural Colombia with the training, equipment, and platform to tell the stories of how they are experiencing the peace process.

The stories they tell–like how the the consolidation of peace is reflected in the improved treatment that street animals receive–are ones that would otherwise likely go unnoticed and untold. They make us see the situation differently.


Hi This is Tim Fort. I’m a professor in the US at Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame

In thinking about communications today, I am going to focus on two-way communications rather than the very important aspect of the ways in which organizations distribute their messages to the public. I don’t claim any expertise on the latter!!
Prior to actual communications, it helps a lot – in fact, it might be mandatory – that people involved in the communications have a desire to engage in constructive dialogue, both in articulating a position and in receiving it. Human beings have a lot of identities. Too often these days, our identities get narrowed into the positions we have on social and political issues. But there are more identities than our social and political viewpoints. We may actually enjoy the same music as someone on “the other side” or cheer for the same sports team or appreciate the same food or movie. If one can find an identity with someone else, then the dialogue one has with someone else changes. Neither person may convince the other of the correctness of their view, but the tenor of the conversation is likely to be more civil and constructive if one has a sense of “us” on one kind of identity even if that other person is a “them” when it comes to a social position.
An example of this in the U.S., at least, is an organization called Braver Angels. They organize dialogues with people of different political views. Now, the people willing to have those conversations likely already fall into a category of those having a desire to enter into a constructive dialogue, but even with that in mind, how do they begin the conversation? Wall Street Journal columnist, Elizabeth Bernstein, interviewed participants to find out how they break the ice. The answer? They talked about their dogs! Now that may be a slender reed to begin, but it is an example of a common ground that allows for a deeper dialogue.


At CARE, we started the Women Respond initiative in 2020, focusing on listening to women and girls’ experiences during the pandemic and how it evolved to capture other crises and shocks communities are facing – climate change, food insecurity, market inflation, conflict …, etc.

Three main actions under Women Respond that we focused on:
• We use guiding questions, and women tell us about the effects they are experiencing, their needs and actions as individuals or in groups. The focus is to listen to their experiences.
• Focus on their action and leadership – shifting and balancing the messaging to show what they are doing in response and asking questions about what we can do to help.
• Share the findings with them regularly so they can access and use them. That created community ownership over the data.


I’ll share a few examples from the Social Enterprise eco-system, highlight three organisations today. All of which work directly on the margins of society where their target communities are experiencing the issues first hand, that these orgs are seeking to change.

Justice Defenders:



Each of these examples bring to the forefront the individuals and communities with the lived experience of the issue and social enterprise solution.


At TechnoServe, I’m really excited to see colleagues in Peru incorporating PhotoVoice methodologies into a project supporting the empowerment of women in coffee-growing communities. The women enrolled in the program have received training on photography and are taking photos that reflect the changes they’ve experienced in their life. They will then come together and decide which photos to share with the public.

You can follow along the process here.


Here’s another example from the United Nations Foundation. In long-form video format with snippets pulled for social, we spotlighted young game-changing activists from around the world.

Saru Duckworth:


We have seen actions led by communities and saving groups as a result of the data; groups started taking the information with local offices and advocating for the changes they want to see. For instance, in Ethiopia, the data showed girls were dropping out of school or lagging in class after the school opened after a year of school closure due to COVID. Savings groups and communities collaborated with the education office and women and children’s office to lobby for a tutorial service. As a result, 35 schools in the zone started after-school tutorials to support students.
See page 12 here for more on data for good:


Peek also shows community members - not generated images or AI - these are the very people who have experienced the program offered by the social enterprise