Common goals

EU brochure on MDGsFreelancing on different projects all the time has one big downside: you’re pulled in only for a certain phase of the project’s life cycle, and once you’ve done your bit you’re often unaware of where your work has ended up, and what impact it might have had.

So it’s good to see the European Commission’s publication on the Millennium Development Goals out – just in time for the UN Summit last week. I had also edited their 2010 version (available, for now, here). This year, we struggled again to keep our clients down to the word limit – crowded pages with not enough white space just don’t work for a product aimed at a wider public – and ended up adding more pages. But it worked out ok, and the final editorial quality is better this time, probably due to fewer Commission folk making changes, and thankfully, a certain amount of trust in my suggestions. It also helped, no doubt, to have a first version to start from, with a format that could easily be updated.

Getting the content right can take a lot of back and forth. Us communications people want to see really clear text that looks good on the page and makes you want to read on. Policy people agree in theory, but cannot always oblige: those job titles must be written in full, those international agreements must be referred to, those tired, unwieldy terms like capacity-building and development partners cannot be replaced with training and donors. Getting the balance right – within a word limit – is the challenge.

And getting it right is only going to become more important. There are a lot of competing voices; much of the buzz at the recent UN Summit was around ‘new partnerships‘ – the foundations, corporations, philanthropists now playing a major role in the last stretch to the MDGs. The place of the EU – which is, yes, THE biggest donor worldwide – still needs to be explained. Even if it means adding extra pages.

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