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The Road to 2015 and Beyond: Keeping the Message Simple

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Discussion around the last 1,000 days of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the post-MDG agenda are ramping up. A lot of the conversation is around policy direction and prioritization of causes. It was refreshing to hear John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress and Member of the UN Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, recently focus on simplifying the narrative: the way we talk about these issues. He said "we shouldn't despair because the American public knows little about the MDGs, or assume that Americans are opposed to lifting up the poorest people in the world based on polling questions of dubious reliability." Going further, Mr. Podesta made the point that we can show Americans that the MDGs and the development agenda are something they already believe in. All of us, not just advocacy and communication experts, should take these words to heart.

My experience simplifying a development message was last year during the "Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday" campaign. The rallying cry was easy to understand. No child should die from a preventable disease. The tools and know-how are available now to save millions of lives. Combined with a simple tactic, collecting and posting photos of individuals when they were five, the campaign effectively linked a personal memory to a development goal.

Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday's content potentially reached 127 million people over a two-month period. The #5thBDay hashtag trended locally in D.C. on April 23rd, which was the launch of the website. Notably, #5thBDay had over 265 million Twitter impressions on May 3rd, after Kim Kardashian tweeted her photo. Engaging celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Tony Hawk leveraged sub cultures within the social media community. Many of these audiences were new to global health and development issues. The campaign also spanned the political spectrum and was profiled through key media outlets. CNN's Political Ticker ran a story with Secretary Hillary Clinton's photo. Co-Hosts of The Five on Fox News talked about their Age 5 memories. USAID Administrator Raj Shah showcased child survival interventions on MSNBC's Mitchell Reports. At the end of the segment, Andrea Mitchell shared her photo. These types of broadcast opportunities would not have been possible without a topline message that was easy to understand and that made a personal connection.

In the coming months, it is incumbent upon the global development community to simplify our message and to seek out new ways to engage citizens around the world. Within our circles, we must better integrate programs to match the way we communicate. Platforms need to leverage each other. Results should all be pieces of a larger puzzle, rather than silos of discrete activities. Our topline messages may not match every facet of our programs -- but by simplifying we gain the support to be able to get the holistic job done.

I look forward to using this blog to promote simple and innovative ways to communicate, as well as to highlight global action to improve the health of women and children around the world. Please share your thoughts and examples via Twitter: @nicschiegg.