I have heard this expression for many years in the charity sector. As our world has become more divided and diverse we see more groups being created. Personally I’m not a fan of this way of working but I do understand why it exists. My feeling is that in a very divisive society we should focus on what we have in common, cancer is now one of those things!
However, we have so many different organisations. Created by sexual orientation, colour, nationality, male, female etc. There is also now the issue of vast inequalities in our sector, including the extremely important area of clinical trials. Giving us the post-code lottery effect, and the increasing rich/poor divide. Our giant charities are also involved here. Watching on with interest as all the groups break away from the regular ways of working. This situation has occurred over many years. But since covid entered our lives many of the traditional ways of working are no longer appropriate.
Our large corporates have little idea how to transform their ways of communication, and their relevance gets less by the day. I’m seeing surveys daily, as many seek opinions from their audience who had switched off years ago. Nobody listened, as we told them their methods were outdated and no longer appropriate. Always thinking they knew best, with no appetite for listening or change. I describe that way of working as arrogance.
These niche groups are now referred to as the ‘hard to reach communities!’ Has anyone asked themselves if their communication is suitable now? I don’t believe there are many that are hard to reach. That is only the case if they don’t want be reached. Our charity giants and NHS use this phrase as a common excuse. We don’t only want to hear from you with your latest campaign or yet more fundraising asks. Engagement works both ways and I have seen little attempt at that. Many patient groups no longer rely on out of touch charities to help them. You are now not relevant to a big portion of the cancer audience! This recent communication from Cancer Research has prompted my piece.
It started with these tweets. You can check out the role profile here and make up your own mind.
Am I the only person who got bored after reading the first few sentences of this? I do appreciate that you need to explain what people might be signing up for, but this certainly doesn’t feel like a welcoming document. Especially given the fact that many of the target audience will not be used to working in this way. This is yet another corporate communication from an organisation who is further away now than it ever has been, from talking to the people who should be at the centre of their work.
Is it any wonder there are so many health inequalities, when most of the communications look and feel like this? Patients have got so tired of listening to the same tunes from these companies, we have chosen to work on our own. With many small impactful and innovative groups springing from the cancer darkness. We don’t have corporate teams and millions of pounds income but we are changing the landscape.
Personally, I have no working relationship with either Cancer Research or Macmillan Cancer Support as we have different ideas about what people affected by cancer need. But against my better judgement, on this occasion I decided to share the above tweets to be helpful. That released many private messages from small organisations up and down the country as to why they would never work with these people! No surprise there, but I had remained ever hopeful of collaboration in this sector.
So after many years of this work and nearly two years of covid, I have concluded that nothing at all will change whilst we continue with the same structure we have. Both charities pre-virus received a combined £900 million+. Is it any wonder they are not interested in change? Is this above request yet another tick-box exercise?
Now I am seeing so much hard fought progress in the sector disappear in front of my eyes. Every organisation working just to survive. Everyone talking about the need to work together but nothing happening in reality. I am likening this to the global climate issues. The world is almost prepared to eat itself because of so many different agendas.
With rapidly increasing numbers of people affected by cancer it looks like we will be entering ‘every man for themselves time.’ If the above is the best we have got, then we really have window dressing and no substance. Something I have felt for a long time in this corrupt sector. Don’t forget that ” together, we will beat cancer!” It must be true, they tell us in their videos.
As always these are my personal views and experiences and please feel free to share your own below.