By the semester’s end every student had helped produce communications strategies for high-level professional stakeholders — the first phase in what is expected to be a three-year project between those organizations and the School.
One student group worked with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on a communications strategy to help developing countries implement climate adaptation strategies. They were invited to present their findings at the UNFCCC’s annual National Adaptation Plan Expo, held in Bonn, Germany, in April.
Another group, working with an organization called the States’ Energy Leadership Project, immersed itself in the political dynamics of individual U.S. states to improve the chances of government support for renewable energy projects.
“In this class, we don’t lead with the climate science,” Lussier said. “We leverage
the climate science into a communication that has resonance and relevance.
“There is no single solution for any of these environmental challenges. So we need a new strategy that integrates the languages of different sectors — including business, policy, and ethics — and delivers projects that can actually achieve change.”
hroughout the semester a series of guest speakers — including Andrew Revkin
, author of the Dot Earth blog; David Gelber
, executive producer of the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously
”; and Robert Inglis
, a former Republican congressman who reversed his stance on climate change — shared insights into how the challenge of climate change can be communicated through a variety of lenses, from economics to politics to ethics.
The students then worked with clients to develop new strategies inspired by these theories of humanistic communications.
In addition to partnerships with the UNFCCC and the States’ Energy Leadership Project, students worked with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United Church of Christ, and PR giant Fenton Communications.
In the case of the United Church of Christ, students developed a website that will help ministers make the link between the ethical implications of climate change and their own liturgical calendars.
The students working with Fenton, meanwhile, created a framework to more effectively reach conservative mothers about the profound importance of climate change. Those guidelines — which highlight, among other things, the importance of message and
messenger — could be utilized by any number of climate-related institutions or campaigns, students said.
n Bonn, the UNFCCC group shared its project at a gathering of more than 200 ministers and delegates from the world’s developing nations.
In addition to presenting the theory and practice of humanistic communications, they described some examples of how the model can be effectively used in the developing world. They highlighted, for instance, the case of Mozambique, where a coalition of stakeholders attracted international media attention by telling powerful stories of people whose lives were affected by river flooding, said Sameera Savarala
’15 M.E.M., one of the group members.
“It was pretty intimidating at first,” she said. “But we didn’t come in saying, ‘We’re
the experts and this is how you should do it.’ It was more like, ‘This is what we’ve found, now what do you
think? And how can we improve the process?’… I think they really appreciated it.”