How would you teach "international development" to public relations/communications students?

2014 begins a new endeavor - my first foray into teaching. Beginning this week, I'll be leading International Development Communications at Georgetown University's Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program. The class is associated with the Center for Social Impact Communication and I'm excited to spend the semester with  20 Masters students and the great group of guest speakers lined up!

I'm really excited by the two key projects in the class:

  1. Due to its emerging nature, no comprehensive reference of the fundamentals of “International Development Communications” exists. Throughout the course of the semester, students will  develop and hone a set of criteria that will merge the elements of sound communications and the fundamental concepts of international development. Following the discussion of class readings, students will review the set of criteria each week and determine if elements can and should be added to provide clarity and guidance to professionals and amateurs alike. Students will then present and discuss the communications products they brought to class each week within groups, to apply the revised criteria and analyze the products. We will build this online platform throughout the semester and at the end, students will determine if/how to make their work available as a resource for public consumption.

  2. Student groups will work with interested non-profit organizations in the global south as clients to provide branding, communications and marketing support. These organizations will share their history, their work, and their current communications products. The task is to learn more about their external communications needs and provide them with ideas for a new strategy and creative suite (suggestions for new or revised logo/tagline, website, blog, brochure, publications, photography, swag, etc.), based on their available staff and resources, as well as deliver two products for the organizations' use. (I'm thrilled that Judith Madigan, co-founder of BrandOutLoud, will be joining us on our first meeting to share her know-how!)

Below I'm sharing the course description, themes, and key questions that we'll be discussing each week. I'm anti-spoiler, so I won't be sharing readings (yet) but stay tuned as the weeks go by!

Got additional questions or thoughts for us? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Georgetown University, MPS PR/CC | Spring 2014

International Development Communications


Course Description

The models of providing poverty-reducing aid to developing countries are changing, and more than ever before, globally-engaged citizens in rich nations are looking for effective ways to affect change in the developing world. Despite the fact that global issues like poverty and hunger are incredibly complicated, people tend to communicate them in easy-to-understand terms. Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign demonstrated that general audiences still respond well to messaging that offers an us/them, black/white solution that can be acted on quickly. But this is not the reality of how social, political, and institutional change works anywhere.

How can a new generation of communications professionals embrace nuance without turning the public off? The primary goal of the course is to provide students an in-depth understanding of the key concepts that are the underpinnings of international aid and philanthropy work, such as advocacy, results, and sustainability. Case examples and guest lectures from international development experts will prepare students to lead communications for NGOs, government agencies, and CSR efforts. By the end of the semester, students will have compiled an online portfolio of products that represent their analyses of the “best” and “worst” of international development communications.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this class you should be able to:

  • Be an effective bridge between those who understand exactly what makes international development programs effective and those just interested in the bottom line.
  • Identify and demystify aid industry jargon.
  • Apply best practices in online and print communications to further the aims of international development organizations and programs.
  • Create an online resource for people to engage with the complexity of communicating social change.

Questions to be Explored

WEEK 1 Jan. 9 - Intro, Overview: What is international development? Does it necessarily improve poor people’s well-being? How is international development related to foreign assistance, philanthropy, international advocacy, and social enterprise, and other do-gooder endeavours? Who are the stakeholders within the ecosystem of international development? What is the size of the development “industry”? Where and how do communications fit it? What the heck are we going to be doing all semester?

WEEK 2 Jan. 16 - The state of the discourse: The words and images that color our notions of international development: How does popular culture affect the public’s perceptions of international development? How are advocacy campaigns such as #Kony2012 and aid agency marketing telling the stories of people in need and what makes them successful? Who are the communications intended to help and who actually benefits? How does jargon used in international development affect external communications? Where are the most interesting discussions on international development taking place? Why is poverty porn so profitable? Can we tell compelling stories about people in need that don’t simplify or stereotype?

WEEK 3 Jan. 23 - Relief to Development: Communications on disasters and conflicts...

Read more at:

Views: 354

Tags: Georgetown course, international development communications


You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Comment by Charles David Tauber on January 6, 2014 at 3:26pm

Dear Jennifer,

This is an area in which many bottom-up field organizations feel very much understood.  We are one of those.  How to get the to the people we wish to contact - and to the public in general - is an issue that we have been discussing for years.  If you wish to discuss this more, please contact me on cwwppsummer at  

Yours in Peace,

Charles David Tauber, M.D.

Head of Mission for Southeast Europe

Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace

Comment by Steven L. Youngblood on January 6, 2014 at 11:59am

Dear Jennifer:

This is fascinating work. I would love to get a copy of the criteria your students come up with as well as examples of the work they do for their clients. Also, this would make an interesting story for our magazine, The Peace Journalist. For back copies and more info, see: .

Have a great semester.

Steven Youngblood
Center for Global Peace Journalism

Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page


PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN




© 2015   Created by Craig Zelizer.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service