ONGAWA: Ongawa: the water and engineering NGO for human development.

 

Interview with Xosé Ramil, ONGAWA's Communication Coordinator.

Why did you decide to create a new brand?

The name change came from a need to invest in the organisation’s growth due to the deep social transformations we will experience in the near future. In 2010 we set a new strategic framework which included new ideas such as focusing on human rights, specialising or linking university and private sector through cooperation actions. This strategy led us to a separation from the ‘Ingenería sin Fronteras’ Federation, as it doesn’t share our basic strategic outline. But a 20 year long history is a long time. ONGAWA isn’t new, it is the result of good work done in these past years.

How will the brand be introduced in the four countries where its projects take place?

The introduction of the new brand in these countries is going to be gradual, managing carefully the different sensitivities. In many cases the projects are done with other organisations and the final result is our priority, and not so much who did what. But little by little we will introduce out new name. And during a certain amount of time the brand will coexist with the old logo so that there is a link to our past.

How did the audiences receive it? What did it mean to them? What do they say about you?

All our audiences have perceived it as a brand new image. In an environment full of descriptive names, ONGAWA’s appearance means the will to gain visibility from day one through the most essential communication: our own name.

I personally think it is a challenge and that we have gone further than we intended to in the beginning. I also think it is a good moment. The NGDO sector is going through big changes because the current audiences are different and act differently. They now have the ability to spread and shape our messages and they expect new ways of interacting with the organisations. With this as our end, it is important to give them tools to make our messages theirs, make them interact with these messages and spread them.

How is the changed being managed?

The brand was launched on the 12th september and in these two months we have gained a quick progress in the communication to our internal audiences: members, volunteers and personnel. There is still a lot of work to be done. We can still consider ourselves to be in the stage of appropriation of the new identity.

ISF ApD (Ingenieros sin Fonteras, Asociación para el Desarrollo, the former organisation) has always been a well respected  organisation, their professionalism is acknowledged in the cooperation sector. This fact is making the step into a new reality easier.

Any critiques?

Critiques have been scarce, they have focused mainly on considering it is a strange and difficult to pronounce name. But maybe because the brand has been voted on and there is a consensus behind, this meant that when the new name was chosen, clashing opinions quickly assumed the change. The favourable opinions insist mainly on the will to be different. ONGAWA with the descriptive tagline “Engineering for human development” is a very complete communication of who we are: an NGO which does engineering to achieve human development and which focuses on water (“awa”, the phonetic pronuntiation of the Spanish word “agua”) as its main issue.

Furthermore, the new name helps to attract new audiences from areas other than engineering.

Any benchmarks?

Some reference NGDO’s which focus on water, like Wateraid.

Do social networks help?

Without a doubt, notoriety is gained much quicker in social networks. ONGAWA acts in the main ones (facebook,flickr ,linkedin ,twitter,youtube, vimeo, slide share) . We have also seen a quick acceptance of the new name and a bigger implication in our activities. Communication as participation.

Other communication actions?

In addition to our new web page, we have created stickers, a widely spread brochure, an Annual Report of the 2010 activities (with the new visual codes) and a first campaign to raise public awareness .

Rigour, dialogue and tranformation. Do these three differentiating values work as the NGO’s pillars?

Yes, we could say that the values that previously existed in the organisation have been reinforced.

Rigour is the result of our background, of the daily activities of those who work for the organisation. Transformation is the metamorphosis we achieve daily thanks to our activity programmes and dialogue, our way of acting and behaving, what we want to be known for.

What has been the reaction of the ‘Ingeniería sin Fronteras’ Federation?

We haven’t interacted to much with ISF during the process of changing the brand, because we didn’t find it necessary. Both them and us are still the same and we share many targets. We even work together in some programmes.

Which are the communication challenges for your organisation?

The remaining task for all NGO’s now is to be able to promote better participation spaces, as citizens are being awoken by other means. We have to bear in mind that people are motivated by causes more than by brands. You volunteer for a cause. And solidarity has stopped been an exclusive action of NGO’s. What is the current role of NGO’s? How will this change be internalised? These are the big questions which we are now facing.

 

Thank you Xosé for your time and kindness. I wish ONGAWA a long life and all the success it deserves.


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