Effective communications can strengthen the UN's reputation, positioning, and its ability to inspire action. The world needs credible and convincing leaders capable of telling powerful stories to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, the world needs UN practitioners who understand the importance of creating a cohesive, effective communications process that is aligned with the vision and mission of the organization. In addition, the world needs messengers of hope who are able to capture people's imagination and offer solutions.

The course will enable participants to:

  • Convey what the UN development system is doing to help countries achieve the SDGs, highlight the UN’s areas of success, what is still possible, and how the UN is making a difference
  • Plan strategically for an impactful dissemination of results: Selecting the right channels, addressing the right audiences, and transmitting the right messages
  • Mitigate risks while communicating within the context of an emerging or ongoing crisis
  • Understand how to create a space for communications while supporting the design and delivery of UN programmes
  • Help expand partnerships and collaboration across UN agencies, governments, and other development partners to advance the SDGs



Upon successful course completion, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the Global Communications Strategy of the United Nations and its shift to an audience focused, impact-oriented approach.
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of strategic communications and coordination to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
  • Understand crisis communications and strategic planning during crises.
  • Identify and articulate best practices to effectively share knowledge across the system and to boost UN visibility, positioning, and trust.
  • Enhance individual communication skills in a selected range of areas for professional development to deliver effectively on the 2030 Agenda.
  • Develop an interagency network of UN communications professionals and focal points to exchange information on best practices and know-how at the global level. 
  • Enhance a culture of evaluation and impact measurement with strategic planning.
  • Facilitate partnership building in communications work at the local level.

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

Over five weeks, participants will engage in interactive webinar sessions with high-level experts from the UN system, governments, civil society, and the private sector. Through videos and key reading material, participants will dive deeper into each week’s focus area. In addition, case studies, best practices, and tutored discussions will illustrate how the UN strategically communicates sustainable development. 

In contrast to less collaborative formats like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), UNSSC online courses combine tutored components with synchronous and asynchronous activities. Each week includes approximately two hours of knowledge acquisition, two hours of knowledge application to real-life and training scenarios, as well as group work and collaboration. In addition to engagement in self-paced learning, participants in UNSSC online courses also benefit from live webinars with renowned experts on sustainable development, allowing real-time virtual interaction between the instructors and participants.

The instructor-led webinars for this course will take place every week between 2 pm – 4 pm CET or 8 am – 10 am EST.

Total duration of the online course: five weeks, five hours of weekly study time.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 

Week 1: Sustainable Development; UN values & reform; the 2030 Agenda; the Global communications Strategy 2020; building a common understanding of communication for results.

Week 2: Understanding public affairs and advocacy concepts; acquiring political acumen; and learning to adapt to different contexts; conveying impacts and results.

SIDE EVENT FOR UNIC/RCO STAFF: Specifics of working in an interagency setting; enhancing multimedia and language content capacity; taking a broader look within the UN system.

Week 3: Clinics on Communicating with purpose – Audience & Message.

Building a clear, focused, and useful story customized to a targeted audience.

3 Clinics:

  • Communications Strategies applying theory of change: The key elements of a communications strategy; strategic communications in 7 steps; measuring impact.
  • Right and effective message: The art of storytelling - Crafting compelling messages on difficult topics.
  • Identifying and evaluating your audience: Tackling reputational risks & managing fake/misleading news.

Week 4: Clinics on Communicating with purpose – Channels.

Media, social media, and other channels.

3 Clinics:

  • Crisis communications: Communicating for results; positioning UN leadership and the UN role during any emergency; managing stakeholders.
  • Dealing with media: Building up relationships with media including traditional media; impactful media interviews; managing difficult media.
  • Effective social media campaigns; evaluation of impact.

Week 5: Building up momentum together: Creating systems to deliver on the 2030 Agenda in a Post-COVID-19 world; promoting public engagement on the UN’s role; communication & partnerships with external stakeholders and donors; collaborating with other UN agencies & programmes to design joint communications strategies.

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

Communications officers and associates from the UN system or UN practitioners assigned as UN communication focal points at country level 

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

UNSSC fosters collaborative peer-to-peer learning among its course participants. To achieve this, UNSSC adopts a rigorous methodology in its selection process that considers the course's scope, objectives, and expected outcomes. UNSSC utilizes specific selection criteria for its course participants to promote cohort-based learning and increase course impact. Interested individuals are encouraged to sign up for the moderated online course and be ready to complete an additional comprehensive selection survey after the course registration closes.

Selection criteria:

The selection criteria include quality of motivation, professional experience and knowledge, commitment, diversity (gender, geographic region, sector, etc.), and willingness to contribute to the course.

Selection process:

Register for the course by clicking on the sign-up button. Please provide a clear motivation statement and a short explanation of the benefit you can derive from the course as well as your possible contribution to enriching it. Course registration closes on 5th September 2021.

After the deadline for registration, you will receive a link to a survey to confirm the necessary conditions for course completion (technical requirements and time availability), as well as to answer course-specific questions.

This online course is offered free-of-charge.

Participants will enjoy the following benefits from the free online course:

  • Three-months' access to course materials (including exclusive video material and key readings), recording of webinars and speakers’ presentations.
  • Participation in live webinars with renowned subject matter experts.
  • Exclusive access to the UNSSC online social learning environment with training and supporting background materials, and the opportunity to stay connected with colleagues.

Certificates from the United Nations System Staff College will be awarded to participants upon completion of the course.

Registrations are open until 5 September 2021.

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