The Communicators’ Corner….Rina Paredes

30 August 2023

Welcome to “The Communicators’ Corner” – a series where we ask senior IC leaders the questions that you’ve always wanted answers to. We’re delving into challenges they encounter, the strategies they employ to surmount them, and the inspiration that drives them as communicators. This is a platform for collective learning, from each other’s wins (and mistakes), that will help us overcome the unique and always varied challenges that face internal communicators.

Our inaugural guest is none other than Rina Paredes, Internal Communications Manager at CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. When we saw her present at the SimplyIC Conference in May, we knew that Rina would be the perfect guest to kick off this series!

Originally from Lima, Perú, Rina came over to the UK from Latin America where she spent 18 years working in the international development sector. Since 2012, Rina has been an integral part of CAFOD’s mission, bringing her passion and expertise in ‘Communications for social change’. This is an approach often used in Latin America, that sets emphasis on participatory communication allowing people to not only be heard but also to discuss and re-construct boundaries and cultural norms that underpin knowledge and power relations.

Inquiring about what sets CAFOD apart as a workplace, Rina’s response radiated with genuine admiration and motivation. Despite the major challenges they face as a charity dedicated to eradicating global poverty and advocating for global justice, she finds herself consistently inspired by the enduring sense of hope that permeates the organisation’s culture of nurturing relationships.

She spoke passionately about CAFOD’s mission and recognises the impact her role has on empowering and bringing to light the voice of local leaders in crisis-stricken regions across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Rina provides them with a platform to voice their experiences to the rest of the charity across the globe and their supporters in England and Wales.

At its core, CAFOD stands as a purpose-driven organisation, with a resolute mission. As a result, Rina experiences the unique advantage of a workforce already deeply connected to the organisation’s purpose.

What challenges do you face as a communicator at CAFOD?

“Do you want me to save the world, or do you want me to be in your film for internal communications?”

Time seems to be the enemy for most internal communicators, no matter the industry, and convincing colleagues and senior leadership of the value of planned internal communications can be a challenging task. For Rina, it’s always time well-spent as the need to build trust is vital in such a diverse organisation, and this demands investment from the senior leadership to be constant, open and clear in the language they use.

Authenticity and the importance of being genuine was another challenge that Rina reflected on in our discussion. What appears at first to be a common challenge actually remains a fairly nuanced one for organisations who work in international development or even global health etc. The concern around ‘White Saviourism’ brings a lot into question for employees in this sector and as Rina stated, you have to be really critical about what your message is, very intentional in understanding the context of the message, who’s speaking, why and how you are sharing that message.

Lastly, being able to create genuine intercultural connection that resonates with colleagues globally poses certain challenges. When delving into this further, Rina said that as an internal communicator, she needs to recognise the distinct and varied cultures in CAFOD, and respect that her colleagues will have different perceptions of the world and therefore will interpret her communications uniquely.

Following her presentation at SimplyIC, Rina emphasised how important it is as a communicator to understand the bias, influence and power you have within an organisation, because you are in an innate position to include or exclude people. Even simple statements that you wouldn’t recognise as exclusionary can have an incredible effect on building belonging. One example she shared was the use of phrases such as “This project will be launching in spring 2024”. But as Rina questioned in a large international organisation…Spring where? Eurocentrism is an obstacle many IC leaders are facing currently.

What are you doing to overcome these challenges?

“There is a reason you have one mouth and two ears.”

At the core of Rina’s approach to internal communications, is the belief that effective communication begins with active listening and fostering open dialogues within the organisation. By engaging in meaningful conversations with colleagues and senior leaders, she seeks to understand the challenges they face and find effective ways to engage them. A key challenge for many IC leaders is building trust, especially when dealing with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds. Rina addresses this by emphasising the importance of aligning messages with actual behaviour and actions across the organisation.

As part of her innovative IC strategy, Rina has reimagined the traditional townhall approach by empowering different teams to run the show. Global Townhalls at CAFOD are no longer confined to headquarters or to a single country. Instead, they are hosted by various countries each month, celebrating the diverse cultures and people that make up CAFOD. This move towards intercultural communication has become a central pillar of their IC strategy, enriching interactions and fostering a sense of ownership among team members.

“Let hope move you away from fear.”

Rina is all about progress over perfection. She recognises that communicators often strive for flawlessness, but this can discourage potential contributors who fear making mistakes. Instead, she advocates embracing imperfections and focusing on continuous improvement, leading to broader participation and increased engagement.

“The response for me is to remain human first. Remain genuine and let hope move you away from fear. Language barrier is an obstacle for participation in so many spaces for dialogue or decision-making.”

As a result she encourages the use of native languages to foster authenticity and create a deeper emotional connection when delivering essential messages. This approach has become possible and more accessible, thanks to the opportunities AI has opened up for communicators. While some may worry that AI will replace human jobs, Rina sees it differently – she believes that, managed with caution, AI creates more possibilities for building engagement. Tasks that would have previously required significant resources, such as creating subtitles for multilingual content, can now be achieved with simple AI tools, freeing up communicators to focus on higher-value activities and strengthening their connection with the audience.

Rina always keeps people at the heart of her communication strategy. “One of my favourite singers in Spanish has a line that says nothing is lost, everything is transformed and I think that’s a wonderful description on how to let go of things that are not under your control and to embrace new challenges.” By prioritising active listening, building trust and celebrating diversity, Rina is able to inspire her colleagues and leaders to get involved – despite the time challenge – creating authentic messages and genuine intercultural communication.

“You are not communicating or engaging with projects; you are not communicating or engaging with documents; you want to communicate and engage people with people.”

Thank you so much Rina for sharing your challenges, insights and strategies!


Written by Lauren Maxey, Account Manager

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