Nigerian non-profit Vote Not Fight has a compelling mission and a persuasive message. Their work: to empower youth to participate in Nigeria's elections and eschew election violence. Nigeria has a huge youth bulge who are disproportionately unemployed, and they are often the focus of groups looking to stir election violence for partisan political gains.
Vote Not Fight began with the help of one of Nigeria’s best-known hip hop stars, 2face Idibia, and has garnered endorsements from other famous musicians in the country. They are trying to go viral with their message, using pictures of famous and non-famous Nigerian's holding a #VoteNotFight sign.
A youth-centered campaign backed by famous artists with the support of the media? Sounds like a gold mine from a communications perspective. However, the organization, and the central thrust of their strategy, an online pledge to participate peacefully in the election process, has had challenges in the takeoff.
The reason for this? Their primary target audience is unemployed, often uneducated youth. In a large, highly populous country like Nigeria, reaching mass numbers requires an ability to scale communications, but many of Vote Not Fight’s target audience have limited access to technology. The organization needs to work across mediums, looking at radio, text messaging, social media, newsletters, and, critically, grassroots organizing to get out their message. Communication strategy on that scale requires massive coordination, focus, and unity in messaging.
Facing these challenges, this week Vote Not Fight engaged in a strategic communication session, led by yours truly. They decided on measurable indicators to gauge success towards their goals, settled on a set of core messages that would be pushed out in unified communications, and decided they needed a content delivery plan to make sure the messages they were sending were the ones they intended - and on a predictable schedule.
One of Vote Not Fight’s core resources is the incredible youth organizers they brought on board. I had the opportunity to meet with and train with these individuals on social media usage. The challenges they face are tremendous, but their spirits present an indomitable challenge to the status quo. One young woman named Nina, an energetic force with a wealth of credentials and accolades, discussed the prevalence of widespread corruption and the manipulation of election violence as a political tactic with me. She told me that someone had to stand up for change; that in a country of people where money reigns supreme, she was setting a different standard: she would work for the love of her people.
In truth – these are the faces Vote Not Fight needs to push forward if they will truly reach viral status: the personal stories that compel us to action.
As we enter a new holiday season, the future looks bright for Vote Not Fight. They have the resources they need and the focus to follow through on their mission, a gift Nigerians, and youth everywhere, can be thankful for.