USC Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism

Annenberg Teaches New Strategies for Reform Communication

Los Angeles – The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism hosted it’s 8th annual World Bank–Annenberg Summer Institute on Communicating for Reform in June. The program is a collaboration between USC Annenberg, the World Bank and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

With focuses on leadership, strategy, and stakeholder alignment, participants got to enjoy interactive presentations from various experts and leaders in their fields in addition to engaging with each other to apply teamwork and strategic problem solving to tackle a variety of real world problems. 

Annenberg Executive Education Director Shellee Smith gave a presentation on the advantage of partnering with news media in the pursuit of reform. Sharing her experience as an award-winning journalist at NBC, she shed light on the valuable ability of the news media to not only inform the public and expose wrongdoing, but also to have real influence in policy decisions, a key step in creating reform. Smith elaborated on how to initiate collaborations with news entities, instructing participants on how to cultivate those relationships in addition to the development of other skills that they will use to tackle real world problems in their home countries and abroad. “The lessons on media engagement - that was super.”

Participants also heard from Kate Folb, Director of Hollywood Health and Society. She focused on how to tackle reform through media from a different angle. Not only can participants work with media, but they can also work through media. At USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center, Folb advises popular television programs on ways to combine mainstream entertainment with education. Working on popular shows such as ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder and Grey’s Anatomy, Folb introduces accurate health and medical information into the storylines, as well as PSA’s at the end of episodes that address relevant health topics. Participants learned how to use these popular platforms to engage viewers with important information through the media that they already consume every day, seamlessly combining social activism with daily life. “[The] impact is huge when education and entertainment mix.”

After learning how media can be used to influence reform, participants learned how to create their own media campaigns through a presentation about working with video from Professor Vince Gonzales. Gonzales explained that the best way to explain policy is through people, and that viewers learn and remember best when they’re able to make a connection through the screen with people like themselves. Participants then got the chance to work with video and create their own media with USC Annenberg’s state of the art recording equipment. “Excellent! The difference between dialogue and conversation came out clearly in this session.”

Participants also took a field trip to Homeboy Industries to learn about a reform initiative that has helped a community right here in Los Angeles. Homeboy is an organization dedicated to reforming former gang members, reassimilating them into civilian life and helping them enter the workforce. Summer Institute participants interacted with former gang members who have benefited from the program at Homeboy, listening to their stories about how they’ve learned to live a better life. Homeboy serves as an example of a successful reform effort for a difficult problem, emphasizing the importance of communicating with communities and stakeholders when trying to create change. “The trip brought out reform in practice.”

Finally, the participants got a chance to act as mentors to a group of high school students attending the Third Space Youth Institute at Annenberg, a program that focuses on building soft skills for personal and professional success.  These students, who are the children of migrant workers from throughout Southern California, were able to ask their questions to World Bank professionals, who in turn imparted knowledge about their jobs, their goals, their home countries, and their experiences thus far in America. “It was an amazing executive program and I have told our Head of HR to ensure that all our managers attend the program in future.”

The Summer Institute concluded with a ceremony, with participants receiving a certificate in Reform Communication from USC Annenberg. When asked which was the most relevant idea they had learned, one participant aptly said, “Communication is increasingly becoming central to what is happening in the world today due to rapid changes taking place and cannot be an afterthought.”