Riots do not develop out of thin air…they are the language of the unheard. Social justice is the guarantor of riot prevention. These were the wise insights of Martin Luther King Jr.

Riots are not unique to America, but as Dr. Shonda Craft of Saint Cloud State University observed, a need for being heard and connected comes to a boiling point during times like the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to understand the impulse for protest before embarking on a community project.

If you’re communicating with a neighborhood whose residents have experience  in feeling unheard — whether for access to healthy food, transportation, or jobs — you need to understand the impact that your project may have. Promising new parks, infrastructure, and so on that has nothing to do with their priorities can lead to pushback from that neighborhood.

You could get the cold-shoulder treatment if they make up your mind that you’re not on their side — and from there, you’ll struggle to get buy-in and support you need to make the project a success.

Try to speak from a place of authenticity and keep your target audience’s priorities in mind throughout your messaging. Sensitivity to their needs should guide your strategy, rather than a “do-gooder” approach that ignores their pain.

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