‘Hurrah for Harare’ as Africa's Salvation Army Communicators Commune
STORY-TELLING was at the heart of a landmark training conference attended by 17 Salvation Army personnel responsible for communication of the movement’s mission across Africa. The inaugural Africa Communications Network meeting was hosted in Harare by The Salvation Army’s Zimbabwe and Botswana Territory and facilitated by staff from the International Headquarters Communications team.
The specially designed week-long programme, informed by a communications audit of Salvation Army output across the continent, was intended to encourage, equip, inspire and acknowledge the good work already being done to share – through different media – how lives of individuals and communities are being transformed through the diverse work of The Salvation Army. Case studies of effective Salvation Army communications from Africa, such as the award-winning South African domestic violence awareness campaign featuring ‘The Dress’, were a centrepiece of the programme.
'Communication is at the heart of the gospel'
A recorded message from General André Cox at the beginning of the conference brought the reminder that ‘communication is at the heart of the gospel’, before the world leader encouraged delegates to be ‘creative and innovative in our approach in reaching and engaging new audiences’.
He continued: ‘Let us be empowered to try new things and to be bold about sharing real-life stories about how God …is making a difference in our communities.’
A range of lectures, seminars and practical workshops introduced participants to up-to-date approaches to fundraising, marketing, digital techniques and media liaison, based on the latest data, analysis and best practice. A valuable exercise in managing crisis communications was facilitated by Menno de Boer, Head of Communications for The Salvation Army’s The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory. Delegates also appreciated a lively, interactive half-day workshop led by Shingai Nyoka, the experienced and knowledgeable BBC News correspondent based in Harare.
In order to put new skills into practice, participants had the opportunity to visit The Salvation Army's Howard Hospital and High School, in a rural location north of the Zimbabwean capital. Small groups each tried their hand at identifying stories, case studies and interviews, with the aim of creating content suitable for a social media campaign, video package or news release. Witnessing The Salvation Army’s ministry in a country other than their own was a powerful experience for many of the delegates. It served as a cogent reminder that the Army is meeting manifold human needs without discrimination in more than 128 countries worldwide –truly one Army with one mission and one message, but expressed in a relevant and culturally-sensitive manner.
Telling a story
The importance of African culture in story-telling was underscored through daily devotionals and a memorable, energetic welcome from worshippers at the nearby Braeside Salvation Army Corps (church), who used dance, song, drumming and indigenous rattles to share their own testimony of faith in God.
Feedback from the conference delegates was highly positive, with many commenting on how it had inspired them to try new approaches and be bold in sharing stories tailored for different audience groups. From ‘keeping the message short and simple’to ‘being the voice of the voiceless’, each participant – including the visiting presenters – took away numerous practical tips and a commitment to apply them! The conference has already borne fruit, through an increase in Facebook Live output from the host territory, which has performed well.
IHQ Communications, with contributions from
Major Carin Holmes (Southern Africa) and Major Benjamin Yeboah (Ghana)
- Photos from the conference are available at sar.my/acnpics