L. Hänninen, P. Nuñez Gómez

Complutense University of Madrid (SPAIN)
The present paper explains the advances carried out at the Faculty of Communication Science, Complutense University of Madrid, during spring 2011, within a teaching method that permits students learn communication research and strategy planning through real social and cooperation projects. Until this year, the innovation group had mainly collaborated with local, either medium size or small non governmental organizations (NGOS) as well as local health care, social and cultural associations. Also some collaboration with larger organizations such as UNICEF and Food Banks had been integrated within the project, but the second semester started with a challenging offer to form communication teams for three large, international organizations: UNHCR, Survival and AMREF Flying Doctors.

UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees plans to implement a nationwide campaign in order to gain social conscientiousness towards the worldwide situation of refugees and better understanding of the different types of forced emigration suffered by millions of people. Complutense students will form a creative team for UNHCR and redesign the campaign “In his shoes” for the Spanish public, using both traditional and interactive media. Survival, the second of the large organizations collaborating with the School of Communication this term, is the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide, with more than 250.000 supporters in 100 countries. Advertising and pr students have started with a media monitoring for Survival and will build up a new action plan for the international campaign “Stamp it out” that aims to challenge racist descriptions of tribal people in the media. The third organization, AMREF Flying Doctors, had already worked with Communication students in a large investigation project during term 2009/2010, but it is not until this term the Faculty team is entirely involved in campaign design. Students will design pr, advertising and ambient media actions in order to gain public awareness for Flying Doctors, as well as organize information events. AMREF Flying Doctors, based in Kenya, is one of the most comprehensive air ambulance services in Africa, evacuating approximately 600 people annually.

The method of real social projects, developed within the framework of interactive learning systems, consist of planning and implementing of real research and communication projects for a NGO or other type of non-profit organization. Students become the main actors of their learning process and learn to take responsibilities working with the NGOS, whereas lecturers act as mentors of the group. The whole working team at Faculty level obtains many benefits and gratifications by helping students to make their own decisions resolving real problems implicated in diverse working situations: it makes them understand the theoretical information and helps to transfer the class experience into real situations. The project completes all the main areas of communication studies: research, strategy design, creativity and media. At the same time, students are educated in solidarity and social values. The teaching methodology aims to narrow the gap between university and communication industry in terms of professional skills and knowhow and it also emphasizes the corporate social responsibility of the University.