Reaching young people
Rhoda Mphande, a member of the WCC social media team, reflected that, since the WCC 11th Assembly, the goal has not only been to inspire, empower, and be a prophetic voice, but also to ensure that the voices of young people are prominently included and featured in the WCC’s digital spaces.
"By actively engaging with and empowering the next generation, we can cultivate a more inclusive and impactful dialogue on issues that matter most to them, and we see the impact through the positive results we get from their innovative contributions to our work,” she said.
WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay expressed great joy about the award. “Communication is vital for our global network of churches to be a source of justice, reconciliation, and unity in a deeply divided world,” he said. “The WCC is rooted in local churches all over the world who are moving together toward a world in which we live with respect for each other and for our planet.”
Younger audiences prefer Instagram—and that has become the WCC’s fastest-growing media channel.
“Understanding that Instagram is popular among our younger audience and visual content enthusiasts, we focused on creating more interactive storytelling content,” said Gloria Charles, also a member of the WCC social media team. “Our Instagram channel became our primary platform for engaging with the younger generation.”
The WCC communications team crafted an interactive storytelling series, incorporating various formats like visual content, reels, and short interviews.
During the June 2023 WCC central committee meeting, the team introduced a project called “360: Behind the Scenes,” which engaged stewards and other young participants by capturing their experiences and reactions.
“After this experiment we started using more and more Instagram stories, doing interviews with our guests, using reels as a real-time tool to post what is happening at the council—which resulted in more interest from our young viewers,” said Charles.
Frederique Seidel, who leads the WCC Child Rights Programme, said that the WCC website and social media played a crucial role to reach some main milestones in 2023. “For example, it enabled us to share worldwide new resources for climate-responsible banking, as a crucial action any bank holder can and should undertake to save children's lives from the climate emergency.”
Website relevance, accessibility
The annual Geneva Engage Awards acknowledge the efforts of Geneva-based organisations in their digital outreach, evaluating also the web relevance and accessibility in addition to their social media engagement.
“I am glad to hear that accessibility of the WCC website and its relevance for our global and diverse fellowship has contributed to being acknowledged by Geneva Engage this year,” said WCC communication officer Ivars Kupcis. “At the same time, we can’t say that we have reached our destination – the landscape of the digital communication is constantly changing, and we always aim to improve our work to meet the needs of our audiences worldwide.”
WCC moderator Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said that the Geneva Engage Award has underlined again the importance of the WCC’s outreach communication. “WCC does great work through its many bodies and through the people who show a wonderful commitment to the ecumenical movement in these bodies,” he said. “Nobody, however, would know about this great work if we did not have committed people who are communicating this work every day. Therefore, investing in our communication of our work is as crucial as the excellent work itself.”
WCC communicates via its website in four languages – English, German, French, and Spanish, which significantly contributes to the accessibility of the WCC messages globally. In many cases, WCC news is translated into additional languages besides the usual working ones, ensuring the voice of the fellowship is heard in the respective regions of concern. PDFs of all WCC publications are also available from the website.
George Sahhar, advocacy officer in the WCC Jerusalem Office, said: “The WCC website and social media are helping promote a new culture where the power of logic prevails over the logic of power, and where we can spread the call for action by Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals about the requirements of peace in the land holy to the three monotheistic religions.”
Krystyna Konovalova, WCC Language Service coordinator, said: ”I am honoured to receive the Geneva Engage Award again for the accessibility and inclusivity of our website. I am happy to hear that translations in different languages as well as interpretation—such as sign language—during events made our work more inclusive. In the future I hope to be able to reach even more people by continuing to increase our language offerings.”
WCC communication director Marianne Ejdersten expressed great joy at receiving the award. “We have been recognized six years for our joint efforts and achievements in our online presence,” she said. In its communication strategy, the WCC envisions itself as a catalyst for change for a world with unity, justice, reconciliation and peace at its heart.
“As communicators we have a special mandate to share stories, to tell the truth, and to provide space for - or tell stories of the most vulnerable in the world” said Ejdersten. “Communication is crucial to be a source of hope in a fragile and divided world. May we continue to be messengers of hope!”
Artistic visual communication also reached new levels for the WCC in 2023, with photo and art exhibitions as well as the Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance offering captivating visual social media material.
The Waterfall of Solidarity and Resistance—over six meters wide and five meters long—includes over 180 panels handcrafted by people all over the world sharing personal pain and hope to overcome sexual and gender-based violence.
Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network expressed amazement at the number of stories and news releases published by the WCC every week. “We may be producing more stories than full-time news agencies,” he said. “But the WCC represents 350-plus member churches around the world and thus our extensive web presence is a testament to the true fellowship of churches that WCC is!”
Suna added: “It also gives a ‘mouthpiece’ to spread my work through a number of stories, interviews, newsletter, campaigns related to water justice—for example, Seven Weeks for Water. Without an effective communication platform, the wonderful work done by the WCC cannot reach its constituencies. So way to go for WCC communications!”
“WCC’s art of storytelling has heightened awareness and deepened the commitment of people across the world to justice, reconciliation, and unity,” said Susan Kim, who serves on the WCC editorial team. “The more people who view, read, hear, and share our stories, the better our chance for change in the world.”