La Sandía Digital and WITNESS created a methodology to offer guidance on creating a participatory strategic communication plan for strengthening land defense, which is based on key analogies that explain the stages of our work: lunar phases and the seeding process.
Background story: our first gathering to share knowledge and create methodologies
In 2018, WITNESS joined La Sandía Digital in a participatory assessment of communication for land defense in Mexico. For this exercise, we invited movement actors, human rights defenders, journalists and organizations from Chiapas, Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca, Sonora, Baja California, Jalisco and Mexico City to talk about communication goals, tactics, narratives and challenges in communicating for the defense of the Earth and the territories of Mexico.
Based on the results of this assessment, we organized the 1st School of Strategic Communication for Land Defense: ‘Earth & Territory’ to urgently strengthen the strategic muscle of movements in Mexico. This journey of crafting a methodology for the school led us to write the guide: ‘Building the World We Dream of’.
“We imagine a strategic community communication that weaves voices, in horizontal, cyclical processes”.
This Guide aims to assist land defenders and movements in formulating a communication plan in a participatory manner. The Guide includes other methodologies from collectives such as Narrative Practices Collective and Cultural Hacking, among others, that support and align with our plan (objectives & audiences), and collaborate with us to build narratives of hope. The Guide points to the use of the planting/seeding process which follows the moon’s cyclical phases to explain each stage of the communication plan.
Following the phases of the moon to seed the worlds we dream of
The cycle of the moon opens up the possibility of a step-by-step timeline and hands-on, participatory framework for crafting a communication plan to support land defense efforts led by movements.
To describe each stage of the communication plan, we relied on the Indigenous science of the lunar planting/seeding cycle which moves from preparing the land to plant, to finding the seeds and planting them, then nurturing the land and cultivations, and finally, harvesting the fruit and vegetation. Similarly, the four stages of communication that follow the lunar planting cycle would look like: planning, production, implementation and evaluation.
If done right, the moon accompanies us in the entire process, from seeding our communication plan to its growth. We begin this process with the new moon, moving through all of the lunar phases until we reach the end of the last quarter of the moon.
At the center of the cycle, we weave in our ‘listening’ practice, which nourishes each stage. At this juncture, we begin to know the plurality of discourses and understand different points of view, to identify their sources, and to establish an authentic dialogue.
We hope the following steps and stages of our process will help you with your own communication practices:
New moon – preparation or planning phase
We begin this initial planning phase with the new moon, when the face of the moon is not yet visible. This is the seed and soil preparation phase, a time to focus on looking inward to connect with our collective experience in order to clarify what we really want and dream of growing. Here, we consider our individual and collective strengths, and what other ingredients we would need to add to achieve our dreams.
This is also a listening phase. We collectively build a reality assessment. In this first phase of planning, our aim is to carry out an analytical exercise that looks at our current contexts, the key actors and the histories of our movements, so that our collective political vision is brought alive, and is in alignment with the communication plan that we craft together.
We also pay attention to the narrative that will propel us into the next stage, which is the production phase.
Steps corresponding to this first phase:
- 1 – Starting point: assessing our realities
- 2 – Common horizon: recognizing our ‘change objective(s)’
- 3 – Roads to the horizon: defining communication objective(s)
- 4 – Choosing with whom we talk: choosing our audience(s)
- 5 – Our vision of the world: identifying the narrative(s)
First quarter moon – planting or production phase
The moon is beginning to show its face and is getting brighter. This phase is for selecting and planting the seeds, taking care of them, and nourishing them with our ancestral knowledge, and observing them with a careful eye to see how they develop. In this stage of our communication plan, we take what was defined in the planning phase and get down to work, to design messages and ways to share them with our audiences. For example, through audio, video, print modes, and more.
Here, we are announcing hope, and giving strength to the ideas and projects that are being conceived. We begin to shape the forms of our communication actions that will take us to the spaces where our audiences may dialogue with us.
Steps corresponding to this phase:
- 6 – Picking the seeds: defining key message(s)
- 7 – Ploughing furrows: designing communication outputs
- 8 – Germination and growth: producing communication actions
Full moon – growth and implementation phase
The night is filled with the moon’s light in its splendor. This is the phase when fruits emerge. The accumulated strength and energy of the collective is made manifest.
The moonlight illuminates how we are connected to everything around us. By generating social conversations, we begin to receive responses to our communicative actions, and their effects become fully visible. We begin consolidating links and alliances to strengthen our movements.
At this moment, we need to be more attentive about listening to identify all the effects of our communication efforts. It’s a propitious time to reinforce the fabrics of the networks.
Steps corresponding to this phase:
- 9 – The art of conversation: implementing communication actions
Last quarter moon – evaluation and harvesting phase
The moon appears smaller and smaller. This is the phase where the energy is subsiding. It is time to collect the fruits of our labor, to give thanks, to decide what we should conserve to continue our work, and what we should exchange to nurture the flow of giving and receiving. It’s a time to look at the connections we have built that will take our messages to places we can’t even imagine. At this stage, what we have produced no longer belongs to us.
During this phase, we will gather all the information or clues that we have about what has been generated as a result of our communicative actions. This feedback will inform our plan in each of the different phases, and will also help us identify what we can improve within the movement in terms of communication. Our focus here is to observe the results obtained with our communicative actions, and then to evaluate them.
Steps corresponding to this phase:
- 10.- Harvest and glean: evaluating the communication plan
Listening: a key piece in this cycle
Throughout the journey through each of the phases, it’s important to keep in mind one of the key practices of communication: listening. In the same way that we look at the moon to guide us in the planting process, listening will allow us to check the pulse as we go through each step of planning, producing, implementing and evaluating. As we move forward in the cycle, we will see how important it is to listen and make decisions according to changing contexts.
Listening is a key element in identifying opportunities, risks and other situations we might need to adapt to. It will also help us in validate our communication plan.
We invite you to listen inside your movements, and to pay closer attention to what is happening around you, in your community, among key actors. Be attentive to the narratives, the messages, and also really listen to what audiences are saying, the ways that they react, or not. Listening is also a protective measure that will inform us about carefully taking into account each of the communication actions, so as not to put any member of the movement or anyone in the community at risk.
As we carry out each of the communication actions and, later, in evaluating them, closing the cycle and resume once again, listening enables our collective learnings to be integrated and adjusted to the soil, the land, or the foundation of our communication plan.
Download the cycle of the moon in English and begin your journey to strategically communicate for land defense!