COMMUNICATING ANTICORRUPTION CAMPAIGNS IN ARMENIA

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Outcomes of research and consultations with Armenian civic activists and creative industries professionals

Most anti-corruption awareness campaigns in Armenia do not reach their goals and fail to engage their target groups. Anti-corruption campaigners tend to target all and no one and fail to make a clear and engaging case about the problem. Many campaigns aim to solve big corruption issues with little or no funding – and inevitably fail. These were the main conclusions of the brainstorming workshop for civic activists and campaign experts organized by the Apella Institute.

Armenian wider public is largely apathetic about the chances of contesting corruption.  68% of Armenians claimed that that would not speak up about corruption acts since they don’t believe anything would change, TI Global Corruption Barometer 2016 reports. 63% believe that engagement of citizens in anticorruption struggle would not change the status quo. While Armenia’s anticorruption strategy until 2018 emphasizes the importance of awareness raising about corruption among the public at large, little or no meaningful follow-up has been in place so far.

What is wrong with anti-corruption awareness campaigns in Armenia?

  • Most campaigns against corruption in education pursue broad, abstract goals (e.g. raising awareness of corruption impacts) and communicate generic messages (e.g. ‘corruption is bad for development’).

Campaigners fail to name the aspect of corruption they are tackling. 

  • Campaigns tend to target all and no one.

Campaigners often fail to clearly define the audience they target and address faceless masses instead of single citizens.

  • Campaigns tend to expose the negative impacts of corruption or illustrate corrupt practices without offering credible alternatives and positive narratives.

The target audiences are inevitably left with the ‘So what?’ question.

  • Campaigners fail to communicate in a clear and understandable language.

Sticking to bureaucratic fuzzy NGO-speak instead. Top of the list are ‘empowerment’, ‘stakeholders’, ‘good governance’ and ‘capacity-building’. Ordinary people just don’t get the message right (or at all).

  • Campaigns are rarely evaluated.

Most campaigners only measure the reach of the campaign without assessing the impact on the target audiences.

  • Campaigners rarely engage opinion leaders.

Credible opinion leaders are able to translate the message in a much more genuine and appealing way by presenting own example or story.

  • A gap between the number and quality of anti-corruption communication campaigns.

Lower quality campaigns with generic messages may create reverse reaction and disappointment among the public. People perceive unsuccessful campaigns it as an illustration of impossibility to combat corruption. One of the obstacles to better quality campaigns is a lack of long-term, sustained and productive partnerships between the government, civil society, researchers, local activists and creative and communication companies. Another one is a lack of funding.

  • Aim to solve big social issues with (disproportionately) small money (and fail). Most die once the funding expires.

What does a successful anti-corruption campaign look like? 

The key points raised by the workshop participants are summarised in the infographic below. 

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The workshop was held in October 2017 in Yerevan, bringing together 13 people. The participants exchanged on the best and worst practices of anticorruption social awareness and media campaigns and brainstormed on how to’s of increasing the impact of anticorruption messages and engaging people in the campaigns. 

The workshop has been summarised by the Apella Institute team in the framework of the project “Empowering the next generation – leveraging dialogue on academic integrity in Armenia”. The project is supported by the Joint Council of Europe and European Union Project “Strengthening Integrity and Combatting Corruption in Higher Education in Armenia”.