Reflections on the ‘Building New Responses’ Training Course

Jude Williams, CEO of Tzedek, shares her experiences and reflections of the ‘Building New Responses’ training course.

As the Chief Executive of Tzedek, the Jewish community’s response to extreme poverty I’m concerned about the disengagement of the UK population. Tzedek works primarily with the Jewish community here in the UK, and we raise funds that are invested in Ghana, India, Uganda and Kenya. We follow the principles of Maimonides whose Rabbinical teaching in the 1100’s taught us that the greatest act of charity is to take someone into partnership and give them a way to sustain themselves.

Early this year I took part in the inaugural ‘Building New Responses’ course delivered by Think Global with Bond. The course addressed the issue of UK public attitudes to development and gave me a chance to look at it with like-minded professionals. The course did not disappoint. It was well run and gave us the main headlines through seminars and webinars. The peer discussions were insightful too.  We learnt what the significance of the trends is, how our fundraising acquisition work can undermine the long term commitment of donors to development; and where our own narratives about development did not always portray the ethos of the organisation.

The main outcome from the course was the Building New Responses toolkit. The participants on the course worked in 3 groups to create some activities for our own use and other NGOs. The toolkit has research links, short explanations and a number of activities to get the conversation flowing.

Ultimately the key change for organisations is to be more thoughtful about how we talk about our work, so as not to undermine long term support. In simple terms too much bad news, means donors think it will only ever be doom and gloom, so why bother. So in the toolkit you can find an activity to critique your own ads, and see how it could more positively portray the same story. This might also challenge your fundraisers. They will tell you donations will fall if the story is positive. Well the good news it really won’t. We all want to hear that if we do something, it will make a difference; things are getting better and that’s because we are playing our part.

At Tzedek we spent half a day critiquing ourselves. The conversation was rich and we felt really good about what we are doing. We found plenty of ways to change the narrative slightly. One bit has been to place the donor as a co-hero with the hardworking partners on the ground, rather than talking about our donors as the sole hero of the story. Small additions and changes in our language, and suddenly everyone is winning.

The ‘Building New Response’s training is bringing more people in to the conversation. The major research on the issue can be disconnected from the day to day organisation and people who create the messages. By delivering more easy to use activities, simple PowerPoints and accessible workshops, it’s going to be possible to create a tipping point effect. If enough people in the sector have had the conversation, then the record will change, and the UK public support for development will improve.

For more information about Building New Responses training please contact

This project has been funded by DEEEP4. 

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