Barcelona dispels rumours, misconceptions and the prejudices about minorities and immigrants
In November 2010, when the Barcelona City Council unveiled its long-term strategy to improve coexistence among local and new immigrants, it launched a clever public service campaign to dispel rumours, misconceptions and the prejudices that many local people held about minorities and immigrants.
Among the city’s weapons? They recruited and trained ‘anti-rumour agents’ to dispel myths and spread the campaign through local organizations and the city’s neighbourhoods. Their mission? To contradict uninformed ideas about immigrants and combat discrimination. How? To take action as needed while traveling though the ordinary business of daily life.
Campaign Tools: The Human Touch
Debunking myth and rumour, often the unintended products of
misinformation, is the primary aim of the campaign. Since
individual contact plays an important role in changing people’s
minds, campaign organizers recognized that a key strategy to
eliminate discrimination would be to put a human face on the
message –and the messenger.
Based on a similar project enacted in 2003 by the regional council of nearby Vallès, the first part of the project identified the main stereotypes and prejudices that were circulating in Barcelona. These included five themes:
- the arrival of new migrants;
- abuse of social and health care services;
- failing to declaring income or paying taxes;
- anti-social behaviour in public spaces;
- taking jobs from locals.
Next, they equipped the ‘anti-rumour agent’ with accurate information about migrants and techniques for addressing misconceptions with nimble situation-based action at work, home or in the street. So, when someone complained that ‘subsidized apartments go mainly to foreigners’, the city anti-rumour agent could quickly interject: “Today only 1 in 20 immigrants receive such a benefit.”
Recognizing that the greatest challenge was not framing the message, but getting it out into Barcelona’s streets, the city launched its campaign through a network of 80 local organizations that work in the field of social cohesion and coexistence. The Anti-Rumour Network members are all connected through a dedicated website offering information, free training sessions and online guides to address key challenges. Once trained, anti-rumour agents are able to spread their messages throughout their own networks as well as participate in public discussions and debates. More than 30 information and training have been held at local civic centres (casals) with more to come.
Comic books to spread anti-rumour
The Anti-Rumour Network also uses a variety of innovative
approaches to carry its message – some more unusual than others. In
addition to a city-wide advertising campaign, the project has
hosted a public debates with leading local figures, supported
street theatre and produced tongue-in-cheek videos for non-readers.
However, its greatest success has been comic books.