AWARD WINNING SPLIT-BORN Gordan Turković reveals how Brački pupoljci forced politicians into action

Nagrađeni Splićanin-min

Last week, the campaign This Truly Matters, through which the Association Brački pupoljci and CTA komunikacije agency provided free ferry transport to children with disabilities from Croatian islands, won the Grand PRix of the Croatian Public Relations Association (HUOJ), the most prestigious Croatian award for public relations. We talked about this commendable project with the Split-born Gordan Turković who is CEO of CTA komunikacije.

What, prompted you as an agency, to tackle the challenges of children with disabilities from our islands

– It all started with a petition sent to me last March by my childhood friend, Mate Mladina from Supetar. Namely, he has been selflessly helping children and parents from ‘Brački pupoljci’ association in all possible ways for years in order to make their everyday life easier. The petition described a 10-year history of unsuccessful demands and pleas by the association to the authorities to finally provide free ferry transport for the island’s children with disabilities. During that period, there have been promises of all possible officials, but all of them remained unfulfilled. It was necessary to change only one single Article 47 of the Law on Transport in Linear and Occasional Coastal Maritime Traffic. They were rejected several times in parliamentary committees. I was quite shocked to learn that island children with disabilities do not have this right if we know that the same option is available to school children and students from the island. i.e. to their peers. At the same time, families in which one parent usually does not work due to the care of the child, have to travel up to four times a week to the necessary therapies on land and spend about 3,000 HRK a month on it. We calculated that this is more than a half of the average monthly salary of an islander. In addition, health care facilities on the islands simply do not have the capacity to provide the much-needed therapies to these children, and for private therapists it is not profitable to come to the islands. The Island of Brač is relatively close to the mainland and what about more distant islands, such as, e.g. Lastovo? The costs are even higher here, with all the other challenges these families have.

All this knowledge and the feeling that a great injustice has been happening to one of the most vulnerable groups in Croatia, prompted us to get involved and help our friends.

Brački pupoljci have been fighting for this for over 10 years, what exactly changed in 2019 that the ruling party finally decided to obey and amend the law?

– Surprisingly, this topic was almost non-existent in the media during that ten-year period, which, consequently, led to the Croatian public not being aware of the situation at all. We understood this from the numerous conversations we had with people prior to our campaign. Everyone was just as shocked as we were when they learned that the island children with disabilities were at risk of going to therapy due to the huge financial burden, and that all Croatian ruling governments did nothing to solve it.

A key change occurred in the thinking of the members of the association who, after the last rejection in the parliamentary Committee on Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, decided not to wait for the ruling party. This happened in March last year, and already on April 1, we practically started what is known today as the This Truly Matters campaign. I take my hat off to all those brave parents and children who persevered in this fight to the end, it was not easy for them at all. They are the real heroes.

Can you briefly describe the course of the This Truly Matters campaign?

– It was necessary to raise public awareness on this topic and at the beginning we worked hard only to get some articles on the portals. Believe it or not, despite the topic, at first it was not easy to impose the story of ‘Brački pupoljci’ on the media agenda, but when we finally succeeded, the topic spread everywhere with the speed of light. In the end, reports on this demand were present in large numbers, both on portals and on television, newspapers and various radio stations. This way, the entire Croatia could hear directly from the members of the ‘Brački pupoljci’ about all the challenges they face every day. Our small team was reinforced with Gina Victoria Damjanović, who told a huge part of this story, and around that time we came up with a campaign slogan that turned into a popular hashtag for sharing. Namely, through social networks, numerous citizens joined in and made their own photos and videos with #nestozbiljavazno, through which they demanded from the government to finally pass changes to the law for children with disabilities from all Croatian islands. The huge support of celebrities that spread on the Internet also meant a lot, their contribution was crucial for the campaign, which was done on 0 HRK budget and depended exclusively on organic reach. Thank you all, they know well who they are.

The story started to roll. Suddenly, Brački pupoljci were no longer alone in their demands and could no longer be ignored. There were invitations and meetings with members of the Government, a series of announcements and reactions to certain untruths, and a new rejection, this time by the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Policy. All this culminated in the July protest in the Supetar ferry port. The disembarkation of the ferry was blocked for 120 seconds as a symbol of 120 months during which the Brački pupoljci were fighting for a fundamental human right for their members. Shortly afterwards, the Government issued a special Conclusion on free ferry transport for children with disabilities from all islands, and in November, complete amendments to the Law were unanimously passed in Parliament. This finally fulfilled the ultimate requirement of the Association, i.e. that this right be legally prescribed and that going to much-needed therapy on the mainland island by the children with disabilities does not depend on the good will of the current government or the one of shipowners. We are also pleased that other neglected groups of passengers with disabilities have obtained the same right as part of these changes.

This is not the only charity project you have worked on as an agency. What motivates you to spend a part of your time on charity.

– You know, I am lucky that the CTA komunikacije team consists of people who share equal values ​​and views on life. Along with Petar Tanta as a co-owner, there are also Valentina Mezdić and Eli Čerkezović who helped us a lot to reach the goal with Brački pupoljci. Recently, Velimir Hlupić joined us as a Digital Marketing Manager, perfectly fitting into the value system we cultivate. Through work we have acquired certain knowledge and skills that I believe we are obliged to use to improve the situation in our society.

In addition to Brački pupoljci, last year we cooperated with the Zagreb-based association OZANA and their Štrikeraj Caffe, which promote therapeutic knitting among people with intellectual disabilities and children with disabilities, as well as individuals with multiple sclerosis, stress and similar health challenges. Together we designed and implemented the Knit Yourself In campaign. Namely, their protégés knitted woollen squares, which were later woven into warm blankets for the homeless of Zagreb. We had several very well-covered events and a number of activities in the media, and we also shot educational videos about knitting for children and adults. The campaign attracted many other citizens who sent us their own squares, and it crossed the borders of Croatia. Everyone who was in Zagreb for Advent could see a four-meter-tall woollen Christmas tree on the European Square, which was woven by hardworking people from OZANA and Štrikeraj Caffe as a symbol of this campaign and care for the most vulnerable groups in our society.

Lastly, apart from helping associations change the Act, what else does your agency do?

– Petar and I have been doing this job for almost ten years, we have worked in other companies and organizations and we decided to establish our own agency 1,5 years ago. In that relatively short period of CTA komunikacije’s existence, we managed to cooperate with a number of clients from different sectors and we recently received the mentioned award. I believe that all this means we are on the right track.

We like to discover new ways of communication and approaches, allowed by the development of technology, and avoid the standard way of working. In other words, we approach each client and project in a new way and create and implement communication strategies tailored to them. We also deal with education and communication training. We devote a lot of time to analysis before getting into a story. After all, it is this exact approach that has proved to be the best way to secure public support and consequently change the law for Brački pupoljci.

Source: Dalmatinski portal