Advice, Jobs

How To Write So You Won’t Be Ignored

This year, you will write something that almost nobody will read. You will probably write several things that nobody will read. Write with the assumption that no one wants to read what you’re writing: convince them that they should.

A lot of people do not communicate effectively. In all offices, in all organisations and all sectors you will receive hundreds of written documents that are confusing or boring (this includes emails!) and, in the end, don’t actually achieve much at all. It can be very frustrating.

This is not something that particularly afflicts interns – many managers and supervisors suffer the same issue – but it is an excellent asset for younger people looking to make an impression. Many people will tell university students to learn technical skills like data analysis or engineering or ICT knowledge. This is sensible advice. But I do think that it’s worth remembering simpler skills, ones that don’t necessarily require a stay in university (in fact, academic training is probably one of the main culprits for bad communication in the field of international development). After all, everybody complains about jargon and acronymitis – let’s do something about that.

I recently put together a short presentation on this topic as part of my fellowship programme with the Grameen Foundation. It’s a short series of tips and tricks that are well worth remembering.

We live in a world that is spectacularly, almost absurdly saturated with information. If you want people to pay attention to anything you are adding to this over-abundance, you’d better make sure it’s clear and easy to read.

This borrowed heavily from the terrific book I mentioned at the end, Writing That Works. I heartily recommend it to all the development interns out there. The long quote is well-known but, in my mind, unbeatable and was written by the great Gary Provost.


Course Reviews: Communication for Development at Malmö University

There are a lot of development related degrees out there. So many, in fact, it can be overwhelming. To help people out, we’ll be running several reviews of courses. If you would like to contribute a review of a course you’ve taken or if you want to attract more students to your programme please email


Communication for Development (ComDev) is an interdisciplinary field of study and practice, combining studies in culture, communication and development integrated with practical fieldwork. It explores the use of communication – both as a tool and as a way of articulating processes of social change – within the context of globalisation.

While Communication Studies commonly is associated with concepts like information, media and messages, Communication for Development not only encompasses these terms, but also embraces a much broader approach. ComDev focuses on approaches that work to facilitate dialogue and define priorities for messages and information, but most importantly, on social processes to involve people in their development – making people active participants, and not only passive receivers of messages and information.

From its start in 2000, ComDev set out to be an academic programme available to everyone, everywhere, even those students unable to relocate for their university studies. One of the key aspects of this approach is our livestreams where our students can follow the lectures in real time, no matter where they are in the world. These livestreamed sessions also allow students to interact with their peers and the teachers and to engage in group discussions and assignments.

Our student body is diverse: culturally, geographically and in their academic and professional backgrounds. This allows our students to deepen their knowledge within their existing area of expertise while also gaining a broad overview based on the academic backgrounds and practical experiences of their peers, allowing them to be able to work both interdisciplinarily and transculturally in their future professions. Many of our students and alumni work in professional media companies, international organisations (governmental and non-governmental) or are undertaking doctoral studies.

The programme runs part-time over two years and is conducted online with the opportunity of attending two or three weekend seminars in person. During their first year, our students receive a comprehensive overview of globalisation and an introduction to the field of Communication for Development. During their second year, the students are introduced to the use of new media and ICT in a development context and receive a thorough introduction to research methodologies in order to prepare them for their final thesis.

The benefits of studying in an international setting with the opportunity to interact with students from all around the world is a great asset to the programme and in combination with students who are working in ComDev-related fields, the opportunity to share experiences provides added value. ComDev embraces the international mind-set when planning for seminars and to date we have held seminars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, South Africa and Tanzania to name a few and we encourage our students to attend the seminars in person if they have the opportunity.

When writing their theses, we recommend students to conduct field studies and our students have had the opportunity of doing fieldwork in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. We always encourage our students to think outside the box and employ innovativeness and creativity to their fieldwork experiences. ComDev theses have included documentaries, short films, photo essays and a wide array of dissertations presented in exciting and original formats.

As an addition to our master’s programme, we offer a part-time course called Advances in Communication for Development, which aims to enhance skills and deepen knowledge in the strategic use of media and communication in development cooperation. Students are given the opportunity to independently plan, implement and evaluate a ComDev intervention. From 2014 this course is also offered as Commission Education for organisations and companies.


Twitter: @mahcomdev


Commentary, Platform

3 Ways To Improve International Youth Day

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. This sentiment was certainly relevant in the 1940s, in my opinion it rings even more true today, and perfectly captures the spirit of the International Youth Day. The global community may not be able to guarantee a perfect and rosy future, but they are capable of equipping young people with the tools, knowledge and experience to face these challenges themselves.

Every year on August 12, the United Nations and its member states observe International Youth Day, an occasion to celebrate the achievements of the world’s youth, and bring attention to the issues faced by this rapidly growing demographic. Which sounds great but I don’t think it’s clear how this day is actually meant to help anyone.

In fact, I feel like International Youth Day is more about paying lip-service to ‘youth issues’ than actually getting anything done.

Research has shown that countries with burgeoning youth populations are more susceptible to destabilizing forces, civil unrest, and conflict. When developing countries undergo the demographic transition, rising birth rates and falling death rates contribute to the emergence of a youth bulge within society. Having a large youth population can be a window of opportunity for economic growth and human development (see: the demographic dividend). But more often than not youth bulges are viewed in a negative light.

As we saw in Egypt, when a country fails to create opportunities for its young people (especially when they are trying to enter the work force), social and economic exclusion can fuel civil unrest, political protest, and even violent conflict.

Policy-makers are at a cross-road; find ways to incorporate youth, or suffer the consequences.

Youth make up approximately 1.8 billion people in the world today, and will inevitably have an enormous impact on shaping the world and its future. Finding new ways to engage, employ, and incorporate youth into society will be essential to realizing positive development outcomes around the world. These issues are not exclusive to developing countries. Low youth employment rates, disparities in education, rising inequality – sound familiar? We are facing these challenges in the West too.

While our experiences of economic exclusion may not be enough to culminate in a violent conflict, I can personally attest to feelings of hopelessness, neglect and disenchantment when searching for a job in my field. When millions of youth share this sentiment, it doesn’t exactly set the stage for growth, prosperity, or a golden age of human development.

So, what can be done? How can we engage youth so that they contribute towards a virtuous cycle of growth, stability, and development? While it’s certainly not rocket science, it will require a multi-sectoral approach with governments, the private sector, NGOs, and civil society working together and playing a role. Here are three simple strategies that I think would make a big difference:

1. Listen

Societies can become more inclusive by listening to youth, and providing channels for them to express their opinions and participate in public life. Luckily, we live in a hyper-connected world, and the prevalence of ICTs has opened the door to this consultative process. Young people have the right to participate in the decisions and structures which affect their lives, and governments should facilitate this.

2. Collaborate

When adults collaborate with youth, it is a win-win situation; young people gain practical experiences that can help to reinforce their role as active citizens, and adults learn how to look at old problems in new ways, gaining new insights through a youth perspective. Organizations should make more of an effort to facilitate internships, co-ops, and volunteer opportunities for youth. If they emphasize the benefits of getting involved and ensure that these positions are adequately broadcast, young people will capitalize on the opportunity.

3. Invest

Investing in youth not only brings rewards to the individual, but also to their family and their community at large. Building human capital through investing in youth education, skills training and health care must be the cornerstone of development efforts today and in the future. For me, one of the biggest benefits of investing in youth is enhanced self-confidence. When you have people investing in your future and supporting you every step of the way – the sky is the limit. It is in this type of environment where the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit takes root, and sets the stage for growth, stability, and development for years to come.