Helping increase engagement with the World Bank’s “Government Accountability and Citizen Engagement” Session
At CartoonStock, we talk a lot about how humor can be used in business to drive home your message, engage with customers, build relationships, entertain and earn attention. These same advantages can be applied well beyond the business world, as evidenced by the recent collaboration between CartoonStock and The World Bank Independent Evaluation Group (WB IEG), working toward supporting development efforts through the power of humor to understand and address risks.
Recently CartoonStock, in collaboration with Pablo Suarez, helped The World Bank initiate “cartoon-enabled” conversations about complex topics to study how approaching a topic with humor might lead to more productive and collaborative exchanges. The WB IEG commissioned the tailored activities to engage participants in out-of-the-box thinking and candid dialogue. The goal: elicit insights about what works and what’s next in how development practitioners seek to improve citizen engagement and accountable government efforts.
As Bob Mankoff has outlined in many of these talks, humor can be used to diffuse tension and foster understanding between disparate parties. It can enable difficult conversations by shedding light on situations that seem simultaneously unacceptable and accepted. Humor lives in a place where expectation and reality don’t match up. Tying this idea back to development work, humor can address the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be.’
How it worked:
During the session, participants were invited to reflect on unusual scenarios to understand and address contradictions, ambiguity, and conflicting views – with visual humor serving as the trigger for awareness and candor.
Participants were shown a carefully curated selection of cartoons that address issues of accountability and participation, followed by a fun, interactive task inviting reflections and conversations. CartoonStock identified and provided thirty original, thought-provoking cartoons to inspire learning and dialogue on the event’s topic, from which twelve were selected for the event.
These cartoons, printed in poster size with ample space on the margins, enabled participants to annotate the cartoons with their reflections about their real-world challenges and opportunities.
In the words of Brenda Barbour, manager at WB IEG Knowledge & Communications Department:
“I wanted to personally tell you how well received the cartoons, and humor-infused activities were. Great engagement and lots of positive feedback.”
Here you can see a selection of images from the event illustrating the unconventional, productive atmosphere created by this humor-infused activity. Participants engaged on many levels, from intense reflection and thoughtful writing to sheer laughter in recognition of the ‘emotional truth’ revealed by the cartoons regarding government accountability and citizen engagement.
Given the success of the IEG session, there have been numerous requests for replicating this approach, including at the “IFC Sustainability Exchange 2019” event (Dakar, 18-19 June) and the “Understanding Risk Forum” convened by WB GFDRR (Singapore, May 2020). There are ways to improve this innovation, chiefly by including the humor-infused activity in the conference not as a brief, stand-alone contribution but rather as an integral element of the entire event, designed as a springboard that serves to initiate conversations and sets the atmosphere of candid dialogue and fun yet serious collaboration.
Would you like to explore opportunities to infuse cartoons and other forms of humor in your important work? Reach out to us! Whether it’s a speaking engagement by Bob Mankoff, or selecting cartoons for your upcoming publication, or co-designing with Pablo a functionally fun activity for a dead-serious topic, we know how to help you save the world – one laugh at a time.
Learn more about the WB IEG session combining humor and humanitarianism serious work in this TedX talk: “Harnessing humor for humanitarian work.”