Strategic communication refers to people’s communication efforts to address or engage audiences for the advancement of goals. It refers to the use and creation of venues, technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones, discourses and practices of interaction – and their intended and unintended consequences. We see communication as a process between people, shaped by their relations and interactions, that is fundamental for addressing societal and environmental challenges. The Latin verb communicare, the origin of our noun communication, means ‘to impart, share, or make common’. In our plural world, achieving such ‘bringing together’ of actors is no easy feat. At the same time, communication is of prime importance in meeting the challenges of our time.
The research of the Chair Group Strategic Communication engages with key challenges in the WUR domains of food, health and the living environment: healthy lifestyles; sustainable food and food production; and sustainable co-evolution between societies and the living environment. We face pluralism here: People and organizations approach these challenges from different backgrounds, identities, values and worldviews. Starting out from our recognition if these pluralisms, we analyze how strategic communication shapes understandings and processes. We also work on ways in which communication can contribute to innovation and change. In short: we seek to understand today’s communication processes around key challenges in the WUR domains, to make tomorrow’s communication with regard to the challenges more effective.
We connect to key and pressing communication challenges in society stemming from differentiated understandings of what constitutes knowledge and the politics of associated truth-claims; varying perceptions of environmental risks and uncertainties; changing relationships between governments and civil society; and changing trust in institutions; controversies, polarization and experiences of exclusion. At the same time, new forms of collective organization and action have emerged, such as civic initiatives, online activism and experiments with new democratic spaces. These offer novel opportunities for communication as well as challenges that we need to understand, for example concerning questions of access, ownership and empowerment.
Engaging with these communication challenges and opportunities, we aim to develop high-quality theoretical and methodological insights and innovations in communication processes and practices leading to policy and practical recommendations regarding communication that improve the quality of life. Key research questions are, for example: how to create connections and relations conducive of communication, especially when conditions make it hard to do so? How to create and support dialogues between people having different understandings and different powers? How to make sure every voice gets heard? How to help make the most of new spaces for communication and collective change?