Seefar has conducted primary research with migrants in source, transit and destination locations in West Africa, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Europe and Oceania. But those are just places. What you need to think about is people. And you need to move quickly past the continent, country, even ethnicity, in order to identify useful segments of your audience. Each piece of the pie is different.
There is rarely a homogenous ethnic audience within a source country, so your campaign approach (i.e. your channels and messages) needs to be sensitive to this.
We can deconstruct this by looking at the example of Afghanistan – a country of more than 30 million people with a lot of ethnic groups and languages. A campaign focused on Afghans needs to first determine which Afghans will be targeted and how they are different from their fellow citizens. What channels and filters do they have? What evidence do you have for how they respond?
Although this seems like a problem, it is really an opportunity. A national campaign is unnecessary. Your engagement space is much smaller than that. If you have access to a destination country’s data on the provinces, districts or towns where Afghan migrants begin their journey you will see that most come from 10 provinces or fewer. Delivering a campaign in the other 24 provinces is a waste of time. And you do not want to end up like Zembla – increasing interest in irregular migration among people who were not previously considering it. If you don’t have that data, do a research project first.
So now you know the priority populations. You next need to understand motivations, knowledge and perceptions in the different segments of your audience. This includes checking these patterns at different stages of a journey. A lot changes as migrants move from source countries, to early transit countries, to key staging locations, to destination countries. Their access to communication tools and information varies hugely between locations. Their sensitivity to, and perception and fear of, risks grows. And the narrative of their decision-making process changes.
The issues of a Pashtu-speaking man in Kabul are going to be different to a Kurdish-speaking man in Erbil. Insecurity may be a key concern for both. But the opportunities at home, access to funds and feelings of patriotism will be different. It is also useful to determine their levels of knowledge about the trip and the intended destination; the role of their families; the psychological and cultural references used to justify their trips; and their sensitivity to different kinds of information or beliefs.
This boils down to research. Your research has to identify audience segments and what they know and think. It has to identify how each segment thinks and feels about migration or they will not listen to you. You will waste money, the opportunity to help people in need and your own time.
Most migration communications campaigns over the last decade have focussed on driving change in the attitudes and behaviours of individuals. But campaigns could also aim to create wider behaviour change by altering social norms and values in a whole community.
Why have campaigns usually focussed on the individual level? In a nutshell, it’s easier and cheaper to verify the impact of your intervention at the individual level. When you design a campaign to create change in the behaviour and attitude of the direct beneficiaries of your campaign activities, you can always interview a sample at different time periods, easily obtaining data points about the impact of the activities on them. However, if you design a campaign to change social norms and values at a community level, you’ll need to find a way to show how people who potentially have not been involved directly in your campaign activities have been impacted by them. You’ll also need more funding and longer project cycles than most migration communication campaigns have traditionally been granted.
You’ll notice that our examples in this book tend to be from individual-focussed campaigns, because that’s the approach we’ve tried, tested and evaluated the most. But that’s not to say that it’s not worth funding or implementing community-level campaigns. Research shows that there are many communities in origin countries where irregular migration is driven by deeply entrenched social norms.
For example, in some communities in Nigeria, we’ve found that young males are often heavily influenced by a sense of duty to take on a dangerous journey to Europe in the hope of eventually supporting relatives through remittances. In such cases, attempting to eradicate this social pressure could be a worthy investment. The first step would be to use pre-campaign research to identify those communities (which could be geographical, but could also be digital) and to understand the extent to which social norms are influencing their migration decision-making.