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Policy Team Adopts Training Approaches

Oxfam America

As policy advisor on aid effectiveness for Oxfam America, Porter McConnell’s department relied on the part-time contributions of one media officer for direct communications support. A larger communications team serves the entire decentralized organization more broadly.

After she and her colleague, a lead organizer, attended training in 2009, they began applying several communications lessons within their department.

Of her department’s focus on improving U.S. foreign aid, McConnell said, “We have compelling content. It’s sexy if described correctly.” In training, she said, “We learned more about working on a targeted message—not the same one for everybody. We also learned that facts are not persuasion. They are different.” She said, “I’ve tried to bring my team along on that philosophy.”

McConnell’s department also plans accordingly. “We use the Smart Chart fairly often—and its use is creeping into other strategy work, not strictly communications. Before, we would often start with a tactic that someone suggested, but now, I would say that our better instinct has been to do a Smart Chart.” Recently, the program team has added a full-time communications professional.

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