Policy approach and operational tools for our communication

About our own communication

Our organization aims to develop a critical analysis of the issues at stake in the communication and influence sector. We wish to be coherent by clarifying the strategies, tools and arbitration decisions of "Communication et démocratie" in its own communication work.
This initiative is a first step towards a joint discussion, together with all stakeholders and organizations who are interested in this approach, so as to define an appropriate way of communication for the associative sector.

Préambule

Our communication policy

Our organization "Communication et démocratie" develops communication activities at several levels, for its internal activity, to inform a wider audience and to raise citizens' awareness, as well as to advocate its analyses and proposals in the public and institutional discussion.

For each of these activities, the organization engages in critical analysis and discussion. It seeks to establish ethical and political standards in terms of its own practices and means of communication. Its ambition regarding its own activities is structured around the values of transparency, respect of participants, sobriety of resources in an ecological perspective, as well as professional efficacy.

Our contemporary communication society is characterized by an overall informational noise dominated by the commercial and political narratives generated by large corporations, by media industries heavily influenced by advertisers, by political institutions that are themselves influenced by the corporate sector, and by the powerful development of a globally connected world, controlled by a handful of digital giants. In this context, successfully organizing ourselves, as a citizen's organization, to produce and disseminate awareness-raising, all the while pursuing the principles we set for ourselves is not an easy task. It requires a certain degree of compromise.

The members of "Communication et démocratie" intend to be transparent about the practices and the different trade-offs made by the organization, aware that such compromises and priorities have already been made and will continue to have to be made, and that strategies and means will have to be developed in order to allow an organization fighting for causes such as ours to further improve its communication policy without betraying its values.

In this section we present our communication strategy to the various social actors who communicate and push for a rapid, ecological, social and democratic transformation of our societies, and who have the same concerns as we do,. This initiative is a first step towards a joint discussion, together with all stakeholders and organizations that are interested in this approach, with the aim to define an appropriate way of communicating for the associative sector.

Our editorial policy

In both external and internal communication, in terms of editorial policy, the organization aims to follow the principles defined by Paul Grice, philosopher of language and linguist, which he coined "Maximes conversationnelles" (conversational maxims).

The maxims of quantity

  • May your contribution be as informative as necessary

  • May your contribution be no more informative than necessary

The maxims of quality

  • Do not say what you believe to be wrong

  • Do not say things for which you do not have sufficient reason to believe they are true

The maxim of relation

  • Be relevant

The maxim of manner

  • Avoid using obscure language

  • Avoid ambiguity

  • Keep it short

  • Keep it structured

Transversal tools: website and visual identity

Most of the activities of "Communication et démocratie" consist in producing analytical texts. Nevertheless, the organization also relies on visual communication in different contexts to spread its messages. It complements certain analytical contents with illustrations or photographs. For its own identity, linked to its name "COmmunication et DEmocratie" and its acronym "CODE", the organization has created a visual representation, considering that the visual identity of a legal entity is a necessary part of its communication strategy, whether this identity is elaborated or not, whether it is based on the dominant codes in the communication sector or not.

The first communication tool of our organization is its website, where one can find all the elements of its identity: the visual identity, the political identity (founding manifest in particular), the identity of the Administrators, the funders, the advocacy documents sent to the decision-makers, and many other contents conveying our analyses.

The overall approach - visual identity and website - is rooted in the principles of eco-design, aiming to limit the consumption of energy and natural resources by the media used, as well as the principles of accessibility, so that the contents are available (perceptible, usable, understandable) to all Internet users.

Visual identity

By working on its visual identity, an organization can better associate its image with a set of corresponding values, and be more easily recognized and identified by its various audiences.

But the graphic design industry is also subject to significant fashion trends in its choice of shapes, signs and colors. Thus, the dominant trends in graphic design participate, in their own way, in this cultural environment of constant renewal, generating precisely the wider context of marketing obsolescence which we aim to criticize. In the construction of its visual identity, "Communication et démocratie" wished to distance itself from these dominant practices and from any fashion trends and dynamics surrounding logos.

=> CODE's visual identity, designed by Laurent Joudon in collaboration with the organization's Communication Working Group, is based on solid foundations, notably with respect to the visual balance and aims to be adaptable to all types of usage, especially digital. It has been designed with the intention of serving the organization's purpose but also of communicating its principles to the audience. 

The "brand block" is comprised of a typographic logo displaying the full name as well as a monogram. We wanted the monogram (but also the acronym CODE) to open up a number of possibilities, leaving everyone free to interpret it, while suggesting a very specific interpretation directly linked to the organization's social purpose.

The monogram echoes the acronym of the organization, while also illustrating part of its social purpose: communication aims to transmit information and messages to interlocutors in an effective, clear and attractive way, but it often includes, perhaps necessarily, a non-explicit component of the message. The organization, through its visual identity, acknowledges the fundamental complexity of any communication exercise, and indicates that it wants to work to decipher its issues for the audience.

The identity, colors, fonts and style of the brand block are then adapted to various media. The visual identity is designed in such a way that its variations in ink and in pixels on different media will consume as little energy as possible and will be compatible with the RGAA accessibility standard. The font chosen, "Basier Square", is available through a "Pay-what-you-want" scheme and was created by "Atippo" an independent digital typeface foundry and graphic design studio based in Gijón (Spain).

Website

The issue surrounding the website primarily centers on the question of how it is hosted. We are aware that the management of data throughout the world has become a growing and massive source of pollution, and the electricity used to host this data is almost entirely generated from fossil fuels. Moreover, a number of recent scandals as well as massive database leaks and cases of snooping have shown that personal data is not safe on the web.

Secondly, the question of the website model (backend and frontend) also raises its own issues regarding energy consumption, accessibility to different audiences, personal data collection and open-source or proprietary tools.

=> The organization has looked for (and tested) data centers that are both truly ecological (with minimal consumption and entirely based on the use of truly renewable energies, not just compensation schemes) but also sovereign, based in France. This kind of provider is extremely rare and, to our knowledge, the ones that exist do not yet provide the necessary guarantees in terms of quality of service and robustness.

While continuing our search for a truly ecological and local solution to store our data, the organization has decided to host its website with the company Infomaniak. This Swiss-based host offers a variety of operational services and all the security guarantees. It is also positioned as an ecological leader among mainstream server providers.

Above all, Infomaniak takes responsibility for the fact that it "pollutes" by releasing C02 emissions, which the company measures throughout its production chain. This measurement of emissions is audited and certified ISO 140001:2015. The company is implementing credible strategies to reduce its resource consumption: as the manufacturing of the servers that the company buys is by far the main source of pollution, the company is developing strategies to extend (double) their lifespan. Finally, even though we believe that offsetting mechanisms can never be equivalent to the absence of pollution, we nevertheless welcome the fact that the company offsets all of its emissions (in this case, it offsets them at "200%", backed up by proof). While we take issue with the company's use of the "climate neutrality label", we note that the company does not use this expression in its public communications.

=> The "Communication et démocratie" website was designed and coded by the "Noesya" cooperative, which develops eco-designed websites and supports the development of digital commons.

In contrast to most current websites, the "communication-democratie.org" website is a static website. No request is sent to a database (which guarantees less energy consumption and better performance) and no server-side language is needed (which means a reduced surface of attack and better security). The site, streamlined and stripped of all unnecessary elements, is also designed for the most efficient and rapid user experience possible. The technology used for the generation of the static site is "Hugo" and the front-end framework used is "Bootstrap". The site can be managed with the "Osuny" content management system.

The issue of accessibility is particularly well addressed, the target level being "Double A" of the "Référentiel Général d'Amélioration de l'Accessibilité" (General Accessibility Improvement Reference System - RGAA). The performance level, as measured by Google Lighthouse, is 100% for each parameter (performance, SEO, best practices, accessibility).

Management of personal data

Tools for measuring audiences have existed since the development of mass media, and it seems legitimate for any information actor to want to better understand the audiences that are interested in its activities and contents. But with the Internet, the technological possibility of tracking the individual steps of Internet users, of collecting and analyzing all the semantic traces that each and every one of them leaves in the connected world, has given rise to the development of a very lucrative market around personal data (collection, processing and sale). This new market has led to many abuses, including mass surveillance. Fueled by the needs of targeted advertising, it relies on persuasive design strategies aimed at keeping Internet users engaged online to optimize data extraction, thus leading to the development of an economy of attention. "Communication et démocratie" denounces the excesses of the data market, and intends to adopt a coherent conduct in its own practices.

=> Our organization collects a very limited amount of data, and does so mainly in an explicit way, by asking individuals to fill in a form. The organization does not sell any personal data, nor does it buy "databases " of prospects to be used for fundraising campaigns or petitions.

We collect personal data through the forms for donations and for joining the organization buy using the service"Asso Connect": we collect the last name, first name and postal address, which are mandatory to issue tax receipts, and optionally we also request the email address and date of birth.
Concerning the petitions in which we may participate, we recommend the use of the "Pytition" software service which does not include any tracking technology. We are aware that it is nevertheless difficult for many organizations to dispense with the dominant actors in this field, and we will not reject political alliances around issues of communication-regulation on the grounds that they imply the use of petitioning systems that we find objectionable.

"Communication et démocratie" does not run any advertising on its website. Therefore, the needs for traffic analysis remain low. We use "Plausible", a lightweight open source service that focuses on the most useful indicators and whose interface is integrated directly into "Osuny", the content management system that "Noesya" provides to our organization. With "Plausible", all tracking is done anonymously and (fully) compliant with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). No personal data is collected, no cookies are created, making it unnecessary to ask for consent to cookies.

"Plausible" uses the GNU Affero General Public License Version 3 (AGPLv3). The source code is shared on Github. The use of "Plausible" is particularly economical in terms of energy consumption since the script added to the site to measure the audience weighs less than 1 kb (which is between 20 and 30 times lighter than the script proposed by the leaders in the field, notably Google). The chosen software solution is created and hosted in Europe by the company "Plausible Insights", located in Estonia.

No platform, especially social networks, has any trackers placed on the site.

Internal communication

Internal communication is an important issue insofar as it is the basis for a large part of an organization's effectiveness in achieving its social purpose. However, it is also the issue of major political and ideological issues, especially with regard to the tools used, taking into account the domination of digital giants who want to dictate a model of society that we are opposed to.

Written communication tools

At "Communication et démocratie", the usual mode of written exchanges over distance, in particular multilateral exchanges, is via electronic messages, i.e., email.

Instant messaging and chat applications, such as for example Whatsapp, Telegram or Signal, are very much bound to the ubiquitous interface that is the smartphone, and the persuasive design strategies that guide its use. As a result, chat loops via instant messaging tend, over time, to increase notifications rather than effectively distribute information, and they reinforce the problems caused by the attention economy.

As far as its activity is concerned, our organization considers that these chat loops by instant messaging should not be an ordinary mode of communication, and therefore we only use them in specific contexts over a short time, such as the coordination of an event.

=> We use instant messaging used within the conditions mentioned above and rely on open-source and free software solutions, sending out encrypted messages via an independent application i.e. Signal



Our work tools

The use of free digital tools, guaranteeing "digital commons" for the benefit of users, is an approach to be favored each time satisfactory solutions exist.

=> For its daily office activities and in its exchanges with the members of the organization, the Secretariat of the organization uses the following tools on a daily basis:

  • free software such as Open Office or Libre Office for text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The free version of Adobe Acrobat is used to produce unmodifiable documents (pdf)

  • the tools of the Framasoft organization are used for online surveys (framadate) and for some mailing lists (framalistes)

  • the common online storage space for the members of the organization, and for working on collaborative documents, is "K Drive", a service provided by the company Infomaniak (see details on Infomaniak in the Website section of this document)

  • for browsing the Secretariat uses Firefox, developped by the Mozilla foundation, and for email it uses the Thunderbird software, also by Mozilla. Both of them are free and open source. The operating system of our office computer is MS Windows. A switch to Linux is being considered.

Remote Meeting tools

Since the lock downs related to the health crises of 2020 and 2021, videoconferencing seems to have truly imposed itself as the default standard for meetings, and the organization of in-presence meetings now seems to be only justified on extraordinary grounds. However, the "videoconference" model also comes with "hidden" costs: the true ecological cost of digital technology needs to factor in the costs of elements like data storage and the necessary digital equipment. These costs are now better understood... and they are becoming alarming.

In some situations, videoconferencing has the advantage of freeing up time (saving on travel time to the meeting venue) and allows to save fuel. However, there is a darker side to the general standardization of videoconferencing as a means of communication, resulting in a rebound effect of wasteful energy consumption when videoconferencing massively replaces meetings that could easily have taken place in person. In addition, the increasing scarcity of direct social links, due to the growing time spent in front of screens, is detrimental to the well-being of individuals, and the quality of an audiovisual exchange is no substitute for that of a direct face-to-face relationships.

Our organization considers that these elements must be taken into account. This should be of concern to individuals, in this case often volunteers and workers in the associative sector engaged in projects with strong human values, but also within the professional sector. The moral imperative of exchanging information and working sessions is to use resources in the most efficient way possible.

In principle, "Communication et démocratie" favors direct in person meetings between its members, and within its structures as well as with the secretariat, especially for matters that require time for discussion on substantive issues. In practice, as a national organization dedicated to the production of contents (analysis, proposal) and to influencing, we are bound by the need to be present in the French capital. But as we do not develop activist dynamics at the local level and since our members, including our Board members and our employee are spread all over the French-speaking territories, videoconferencing can provide an important ecological and budgetary benefit since it allows us to cut back on travel expenses.

=> Remote meetings with a limited number of people, working group meetings or board members meetings, are done through the KMeet service of the company Infomaniak (see details on Infomaniak in the Website section of this document).

In addition, the organization takes the necessary logistical steps to ensure the in-person presence of the participants at the yearly general meetings and at least two meetings of the Board of Administration each year. The Secretariat also identifies opportunities for members to meet in person while on their own travels, in order to hold in-person meetings for discussions and work.

External communications

In addition to the website, mentioned above, we communicate through social networks and through our advocacy activities.

Social Networks

The dominant social networks (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin, and no doubt others in the future) raise major political issues that civil society can no longer ignore. The economic model of these social networks is based on the collection and processing of personal data for advertising purposes. Moreover, their functioning is based on algorithms that are kept secret. These ad-based social networks create content bubbles and promote messages that are specifically intended to trigger reactions and engagement, which leads to the polarization of debates and the development of misinformation and online hate speech. The design of these social networks is based on "entrapment" (captology) techniques that result in massive levels of overconnection, which are themselves at the origin of psychological disorders (addictions, unhappiness) and actively participate in the ecological problems that the contemporary digital world now poses.

However, because of their sociological importance, these social networks can be a crucial tool for an advocacy organization to transmit information, raise awareness, and mobilize a wide range of audiences. The alternatives such as Diaspora, Mastodon, Framasphere, or Peertube, whose models we support, often do not reach large enough audiences particularly among people who are more removed from the activist sphere.

=> Pending a solid strategy for choosing social networks, with a clear framework for their use, the organization has decided to be present primarily and simultaneously on the ad-supported social network Twitter and on the non-ad-supported social network Mastodon. Like the organization "Résistance à l'agression publicitaire" which developed this policy in 2016, "Communication et démocratie" is committed to avoid broadcasting exclusive content on Twitter, ensuring that all its publications on this ad-supported social network can also be viewed on a non-ad-supported social network.

The organization also has a more limited presence on the professional network LinkedIn. It has not yet identified any alternative solutions to this communications channel.



Public relations and advocacy

The organization "Communication et démocratie" engages in advocacy activities towards public opinion and institutions. Within this framework, it produces policy contents and disseminates messages with the aim of persuading through communication. It conducts these activities in a transparent manner with respect to its objectives, and seeks to convince people, including institutional and political leaders, through reasoned discourse that appeals to their analytical and critical minds.

In a context where the political influence activities of large companies, institutional lobbying as well as 360° lobbying and in particular astroturfing, are characterized by their opacity regarding the real objectives and the means used by the companies, "Communication et démocratie" wishes to demonstrate that advocacy activities, whether general or particular, can be conducted in a ethical and sustainable way.

=> The organization is transparent about who it is and how it is governed.

The statutes, the identity of the Board members (directors and employees) and those of the legal entities that support the organization financially are easily available on the website.

The organization publishes its yearly annual and financial report.

The organization publishes on its website all materials that it distributes to decision makers. Obviously, all of the organization's press releases are also posted on the website.

The organization also declares its advocacy activities to the french "Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique" (High Authority for Transparency in Public Life).



This is a living document. It has been last updated on April 04, 2023.

This document is evolving regularly. It was updated  on the 4th of november 2022.

Back to top