Editorial: A brave new magazine

In rural Kenya, volunteers of the Kenya Red Cross Society’s Tharaka Nithi branch are using digital technology to transform what it means to be a volunteer — engaging a cadre of digital do-gooders to join forces to help tackle everything from car accidents to cholera outbreaks

Meanwhile, a wide range of social media platforms, apps and data-analysis software are providing new tools to help people around the world relocate lost loved ones — even while raising serious concerns about the protection of data of vulnerable people.

And just as social technology has ushered in what some call ‘the age of transparency’, providing a voice to victims of abuse and bringing important injustices to light, it has also served to erode trust in once respected institutions, raising serious challenges for nearly all sectors of society.

Good or bad, technology is changing our world, offering new opportunities and posing new risks for all aspects of Red Cross Red Crescent operations, advocacy and communications.

This magazine is not immune to these radical changes. Created almost 30 years ago, Red Cross Red Crescent magazine was given the mandate by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s Council of Delegates to foster a sense of unity among its many disperse delegations and National Societies while also sharing a unique Movement perspective to the wider world.

Today, the need for unity and Movement cohesion is as great as ever. But the world in which we express that cohesion is very different than three decades ago. And so in the coming months, you will witness a significant transformation of Red Cross Red Crescent magazine as it dives more fully into the digital media universe.

Past issues of our print magazine.

While we will continue having print editions, we will send out fewer copies, targeting markets where print editions are most relevant. This will save money and allow us to invest more in content production and digital distribution. In short, we’ll be producing more stories that are easier and more fun to view and share, and that will be seen by far more people.

Our focus will remain first on serving our internal audience of National Society leaders, management and volunteers, as well as the extended family of delegations of the ICRC and the IFRC. But we will multiply our message by partnering with you, our readers, to spread our stories strategically to important audiences and markets.

The editorial board that oversees this magazine based these changes on concrete evidence about magazine performance provided by an independent research firm that surveyed readership and analysed the magazine’s potential in the digital realm.

The company interviewed 76 people, mainly staff and volunteers of National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and received feedback from 48 National Society branches or chapters. They also conducted an online readership survey, among other things.

In short, there was good news and bad news.

The good news is that you like the content: 80 per cent of respondents gave highly positive responses about the quality of the stories, photographs and illustrations. In addition to helping people feel connected to the larger Movement, the magazine is used for updating, learning, sharing and inspiring new initiatives.

The bad news is that we are not doing a good enough job sharing our stories. Part of the reason, researchers found, has been a lack of clarity about our editorial agenda and publication schedule, along with a lack of tools to help National Societies share our stories in their markets.

Fortunately, many of these things are easy to fix. In addition to expanding our digital offerings, from now on we will provide National Societies and delegations with all magazine content in formats that are easy to repurpose and share. We will be more inclusive in content gathering and more informative about our editorial agenda so readers can integrate our stories into their own editorial agendas and campaigns.

As the stories from rural Kenya and on Restoring Family Links show, people all over the world (rural and urban) are deeply engaged in digital conversation. But, even in this age of hyper-connectedness, people can fall through the cracks. That’s why our research is not over. We hope that all of you tell us more about who you are and what you want from this magazine. And we hope we can count on you to help us through this transformation and bring our stories to even more eyes, hearts and minds.


What happens when machines can decide who to kill?

It’s the stuff of science fiction: machines that make decisions about who and when to kill. Referred to as “autonomous weapons”, they’re already in use to some degree. But as more sophisticated systems are being developed we wanted to an expert in the field about whether such systems comply with international humanitarian law and what it means for humanity to give machines the power over human life and death.

‘Wildfire diaries’ and radical change in communications

In this episode, we talk with humanitarian communicator Kathy Mueller who produced our first magazine podcast series, The Wildfire Diaries, about massive wildfires in Northern Canada in 2017. We talk about that series, her many international missions, and the big changes in humanitarian communications since she began with the Canadian Red Cross almost 20 years ago.

The power of storytelling

In this episode, we talk about the power of storytelling to inform and inspire. “Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of human communication,” says our guest Prodip, a volunteer and multi-media storyteller for the Bangladesh Red Crescent. “It inspires us to be a hero of our own community.” We also speak with one such community hero, Dalal al-Taji, a longtime volunteer and advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in emergencies response. “In disasters. persons with disabilities sometimes get forgotten.”

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