Since fall 2014, the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement has been connecting Safe Wings Ottawa, a local bird research, prevention and rescue program of the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, to University of Ottawa students who want to raise awareness about bird window strikes, encourage bird-friendly building design and protect the region’s biodiversity.
With a heightened awareness of the issues of bird window collisions and rescues, the demand for Safe Wings’ services has been increasing. The need for an effective communications plan to relay information on available resources and volunteer rescue coordination to the public was evident. This need dovetailed nicely with Professor Valerie Noftle’s Faculty of Arts Communication Management (CMN5135) graduate seminar in winter 2018, in which 16 students were asked to develop an in-depth strategic communications plan for Safe Wings. For Noftle, integrating Community Service Learning (CSL) into her teaching gave students the “opportunity to put policy into practice ... this was the most important outcome of CSL. The students had actual measurable outcomes to show how much they had accomplished.”
The students first split into five groups that focused on building a communications strategy for Safe Wings’ Annual Bird Display at City Hall February 26. Students were able to reach out to media stakeholders, create a social media promotion strategy and help set up the annual exhibit, remaining flexible and focused on meeting Safe Wings’ needs. On the day of the event, more strategic media outreach, along with social media promotion and event set-up, was evident, leading to a significant increase in interaction on social media as well.
Students felt the CSL program added to the communications management theory they learned in class — they knew the work was going towards something important. For one student, Georgia Kyriakaki, CSL “was a very good experience, and hands-on. The fact that we did it as a class, all together, made it more fun. It was easier to adjust and know what we’re doing because you could rely on your team.”
The students continued to work on a communications strategy for Safe Wings throughout the Winter 2018 term, to raise the profile of bird safety and collisions and the organization’s mandate in general. Once finalized, the communications plan will be implemented by the organization in the coming months. The students say that their involvement in this CSL project has evolved into an impact-driven commitment to raise awareness on an issue that affects their local community.
Look for a future article on the impact the students from CMN 5135 have had on Safe Wings Ottawa!