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Knowledge is power - ABC of civil society

The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you

If civil society organizations want to have an influence concerning the issues which are central to them, they have to establish themselves as a centre of expertise on this issue. This is important and beneficial for a number of reasons:

Respect

By demonstrating your knowledge and expertise, you can expect to be taken seriously and listened to. Many organizations have almost no budget and may not have thousands of supporters, but they can still earn themselves a key place in conferences and events, or convince officials and the media to listen to them if they demonstrate that they know what they are talking about and earn respect.

Influence

Often officials and journalists working on a particular agenda themselves are not specialists and therefore welcome the input of organizations which have done their research and which have established themselves as knowledgeable on the subject.

The number of decision-makers on key issues such as care for the elderly, marine biology or traditional handcrafts may be very small, so if you can establish good relations with people who make decisions concerning the issues you care about and share your knowledge, you can convince them that you are worth listening to.

Reframing the agenda

For many issues like combatting drug abuse or deradicalizing young people, the obvious solutions are not always the best ones. Your research can help shift the debate and show new approaches which may be more effective. For example; by highlighting the conclusions of other experts, showing the results of studies or programmes conducted elsewhere; or conducting your own independent research.

Environmental activists sometimes struggle to get public and media attention, because issues like climate change seem very remote from people’s ordinary lives and not something the public can do much about. Therefore a successful awareness-raising campaign would show how environmental factors can have a direct and tangible impact; as well as the simple things people can do and why these matter (recycling, reducing energy and water wastage, not polluting or littering local environment…)

Winning people over

It is not good enough to be right - you need to convince your target audience that your arguments are correct. Perhaps this could be through a media campaign (writing articles, interviews with journalists, speaking at events, advertising etc); or through other efforts to raise awareness.

You must think very carefully how you present your argument; because if you simply make the same point time after time and accuse everybody else of being wrong, them people may simply stop listening to you.

As we saw in the article about Lobbying, there are many ways of getting political decision-makers to take you seriously.

Sharing your knowledge

If the public understand an issue, they are more likely to support action being taken and seeing resources being used to introduce the changes you are arguing for.

Even if politicians and officials are convinced – if the public don’t understand and support your agenda, then you may experience a strong backlash. Therefore, you must use the social media, newspapers and the broadcast media, as well as public gatherings to raise awareness and gain sympathy from the public.

ABC of civil society

Judiciary – next week

Knowledge is power

Lobbying

Media freedoms

NGOs

Opportunity

Parliament

Quality of life

Reform

Sectarianism

Transparency

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Volunteering

Women’s rights

Xenophobia

Youth

Zero-sum game

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