‘A unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development’ – that is the briefest of descriptions of the World Bank’s mission.
A more lengthy explanation would fill an encyclopedia, detailing the kinds of projects the Bank is involved in, from improving sanitation to fighting corruption.
But much as this information is important in describing The World Bank, it also misses a vital and often over-looked component in explaining the institution and in communicating what it does.
That missing element is the ten thousand or so employees who are situated in over one hundred countries around the globe.
The stories of these people, what they do, how they came to work at the World Bank are endlessly fascinating. In my four years with the Bank, I have worked with a financial expert who was once a teacher in rural Ecuador, an anti-corruption specialist who served as a lawyer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and an administrative assistant who studied medicine in Kosovo.
Those who have come to work at the World Bank arrive with often fascinating personal stories, which says a great deal about them and their talents but also something significant about the institution.
Communicating about The World Bank is normally concerned with explaining program objectives, projects, research, and accomplishments. But without diminishing the critically important work of the Bank in fighting poverty, it is often those working within it who possess an often overlooked and compelling narrative.
With this in mind, I decided to showcase a number of current and former World Bank personnel on subjects unrelated – but sometimes tangentially linked – to their day to day work. I wanted to demonstrate the multi-dimensional and multi-skilled characters who fill the Bank and illustrate that ‘something extra’ about them.
As a result, I sought out people who had authored books, both fact and faction. I interviewed a former administrative assistant who had composed a volume on Cambodian food, as a means of recovering parts of her country’s culture destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. I also spoke to a former World Bank Treasurer who along with his wife, penned a children’s book explaining global trade. Other interviewees included a communications officer writing on the life of women in Iran, a senior researcher’s fictional murder mystery involving Charles Dickens, as well as an action packed thriller set in Somalia, a children’s book involving a mischievous cheetah and a novel ranging across continents involving a cast of characters struggling to deal with poverty.
The decision to put them out on-line in an audio format rather than as blogs is deliberate and reflects what I believe is the both the best medium for these interviews and an increasingly important tool for communications.
In previous postings I have written about the growing importance of on-line audio as well as its commercial potential (‘the podcast gold rush’). I have sought to show the mushrooming creativity and huge potential of this medium.
As a communications professional I believe it is vital for large international institutions – like the World Bank – which have a global mission and message, to fully participate in the rapidly expanding realm of on-line audio. But in doing so, the podcasts must be inventive, well produced and most importantly – a good listen.
Communications in the digital age is composed of a seemingly endless range of easily accessible media products. Only by competing with the multitude of other on-line offerings on the quality of the audio rather than worthiness of the institution will it be possible to successfully describe what it is and why it matters.
In the case of the World Bank it is the distinctive experiences (and voices) of the staff that make it stand out – and through them it is possible to more fully tell its story.
In that vein I urge you to listen to ‘Bookmark’, and consider how the people rather than the product can amplify what you do.
To hear the first episode: ‘A Cheetah’s Tale for Children – An Ecologist’s Story from the Plains of Africa’ go to: http://wrld.bg/aRcG303vFZg
You can also find further episodes on Twitter via the hashtag #Bookmarkpodcast
Richard Miron is a Senior Communications Officer for The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, and formerly worked for a number of years as a reporter for the BBC.