Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Top Ten Global Development Communications Stories of 2011

December 21, 2011

As was the case in 2010, global development non-profits continued their love affair with social media, finding Twitter, Facebook and the like amazing tools for communicating and advocating on a wide range of global issues. From global health to climate change to political systems, we’ve seen health improved, lives saved, policies changed, and governments overturned when we harness these new information pathways effectively.

Based on the 11,196 non-profit professionals surveyed in the 3rd Annual Non-Profit Social Network Benchmark Report,  the Facebook average member community size increased 161 percent in 2011, and the average Twitter base was up 2 percent. International groups reported the highest use of Facebook up by a whopping 97 percent, and nearly double the number of Twitter followers as compared to all non-profits. As a global health and development communicator, I’ve been tracking the incredible progression of how health and development organizations use both new and traditional media to connect, engage, and inspire.

It’s why I’ve created my very own Top 10 list of favorite global development communication picks of 2011. Now, on to my other subjective picks for 2011 (and, yes, the Gates Foundation is on the list!) in no particular order:

  1. Social Good Summit: The U.N. Foundation, the extremely popular site, Mashable, and partners put on the second Social Good Summit — dubbed “The Digital Davos” — during the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York to demonstrate how social media and technology can change the world. The accompanying Digital Media Lounge provided a venue for new media to cover the issues of the Social Good Summit and the U.N. The #socialgood hashtag used by participants was wildly popular with more than 45,000 tweets.
  2. The 800-Pound Gorilla: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continued to increase its influence in global development communications (the Seattle Times reported that Gates has spent $1 billion on these programs over the last decade): In March, the Foundation awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to the BBC World Service Trust, the foundation's largest so far with a media connection. In April, the Foundation and the ONE Campaign launched the Living Proof campaign in France and in Germany.  The Foundation renewed its support for the Guardian’s global development website in October with a $2.5 million grant. The Seattle Times published an article that questioned whether the Foundation’s growing funding of this type taints media’s objectivity. The article found no evidence that it did, but it found cause for concern.
  3. Aid Data Transparency: There is an increasing consensus that improving transparency of aid data is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other development objectives. And there is a strong argument that better transparency will make it easier for global development communicators to do their work. Owen Barder of the Center for Global Development gave a good overview of the subject in this blog from the Busan Forum on Aid Effectiveness.  And Jamie Drummond, head of ONE, wrote about it in the Huffington Post.
  4. 7 Billion: National Geographic Magazine, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, PBS NewsHour, and other media outlets collaborated to highlight population issues around the globe in the year the earth reached 7 billion in population. National Geographic published an acclaimed year-long series of articles and special features on 7 Billion.
  5. mHealth Momentum : If 2010 was a coming of age for mobile health, 2011 saw it growing into gawky adolescence. The third annual mHealth Summit at National Harbor outside D.C. in December drew over 3,600 participants (up from 2,500 in 2010) from 50 countries. And this year the U.N. Foundation, one of the organizers, created a Digital Media Pavilion, where social media types could “break down the event’s walls” by reporting to virtual audiences. The Pavilion was modeled after the Digital Media Lounge at the Social Good Summit. 
  6. AOL-Huffington Post Merger: AOL acquired The Huffington Post in February. A press release from the two organizations claimed that the new group will have a combined base of 117 million unique visitors a month in the U.S. and 270 million around the world, on top of the 25 million that The Huffington Post already had. This will give non-profit communicators, many of whom already use The Huffington Post to get out their messages, an even more prominent soapbox.
  7. Busannovate: Devex and the U.N. Foundation’s Pledge Guarantee for Health capitalized on the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea to drive a fascinating conversation about innovative finance for development dubbed Busannovate, featuring some of the world’s best thinkers on innovative finance.  The successful campaign, in fact, just wrapped up.
  8. Global Post and Global Pulse: The Kaiser Family Foundation began a new partnership with GlobalPost to help support original reporting on global health policy issues. Through the partnership, GlobalPost created Global Pulse, a blog which examines the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative in the field.
  9. Global Health Media Winners: PBS NewsHour, Population Action International, Population Media Center, and other organizations won 2011 Global Media Awards from the Population Institute. And global health stories from India, South Africa, United Kingdom, and Zambia won Excellence in Media Awards for Global Health from the Global Health Council.
  10. What’s Ahead for Global Health Journalism: The Kaiser Family Foundation released the report “Taking the Temperature: The Future of Global Health Journalism,” in February. Although the report focused on global health journalism, many of the issues it raised are common to broader development communicators. Although parts of the report were depressingly familiar, it also identified some exciting new opportunities.   

You now have my list. Have I missed any big stories? Do you disagree with any of my picks? If so, post a comment below.

 
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