Communications and Media students of the University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Class of 2021 are exploring how to rebrand Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, in ways that provide more socio-economic opportunities in the mountainous region. Their ultimate aim is to enhance the quality of life in Naryn Oblast by providing better jobs and living conditions in the region -- which coincides with UCA’s programme to develop Naryn into a “university town”.
Students presented branding proposals to a panel of UCA faculty and staff and the Director of the School of Professional and Continuing Education. The panel then examined each branding proposal to ensure that the proposal was in line with UCA and Aga Khan Development Network’s long-term plans for the mountainous region. Ultimately, the plans will be shared with government officials.
The “Branding Naryn” project was the focus of UCA’s Junior Students’ Strategic Communications course. The class was divided into three groups, each group offering a short-term and a long-term project. Projects ranged from promoting tourism, organising cultural and sports activities and raising awareness about the region’s environmental problems and activities. In particular, the projects proposed finding ways to ameliorate the negative impacts of the worldwide environmental crisis on the region.
The projects included organising a Central Asian ethno-cultural festival, launching an extreme sports centre, developing and promoting the Son-Kul area, promoting a plastics-free Naryn, planting 1,000 trees by the end of 2020, and changing the mindset toward eco-shopping by encouraging local businesses to produce organic goods and supporting new business in Naryn that would make environmentally friendly products.
Given the mandate of the class is to focus on strategic communications, the bulk of the emphasis was not about how to run profitable businesses or how to fund them, but on how to provide short- and long-term tactical and strategic communications planning to make each project a success in its own right.
Mindful of the planning and funding requirements, however, the students in each group meticulously chose one short-term project that the government, and its partners, could get off the ground within a year. A longer-term project might take 2-3 years to launch, it was suggested.
The communications strategies included what material needed to be produced before and during each project. Each project recommended particular activities and communications strategies, such as posters, banners, brochures, making use of national and international media, running specially designed websites, as well as conducting capacity-building training sessions as needed. It also featured “after action” reviews so lessons learned could be applied to future iterations of the communications activities.
For the next step, UCA will formally present a copy of the plan to Naryn government officials in the spring semester. The authorities can then choose to include some of the projects in the 25-year master development plan for the Oblast.