Informative World Of Communication Learning: A Mentor’s Reckoning.

The dilemma, the debate, and the dare

Media plays a crucial role in shaping social change, a widely accepted saying in our current era. Nevertheless, media initiatives motivated by commercial interests frequently fail to meet the expected social responsibility and development impact. In today’s debates, development communication has emerged as an extension of the media’s social responsibility mandate.

In the developing world, particularly in South Asia, numerous issues such as poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, loss of arable land, malnutrition, diseases, inequality, high population growth, and ethnic conflict, as well as the negation of human rights, are prevalent in society.

As we delve into learning and mentoring development communication, the challenges in mainstream media regarding coverage, the discussion on defining effective development communication, and the task of presenting it creatively and convincingly across various media platforms are all crucial hurdles to overcome before entering the field.

Exploring the Basics of Development Communication

Development communication emerged as a response to societal issues, operating on the belief that problems have root causes that can be addressed through information and communication.
Communication is used to support social development in development communication. Engaging stakeholders and policymakers, creating favourable environments, evaluating risks and opportunities, and facilitating information sharing will drive social progress through sustainable development.

Communication techniques in development involve spreading information, educating, influencing behaviour, promoting social causes, mobilising communities, advocating through media, facilitating social change, and engaging communities in the development process.
Development communication is often referred to as the “Fifth Theory of the Press,” emphasising its focus on social transformation, development, and meeting basic needs. The development communication philosophy revolves around three key concepts: purposeful, value-driven, and practical.

Three Models of Devcom: Basic Learning:

Model of Development: Communication through Diffusion

According to the diffusion model, a successful mix of mass-mediated and interpersonal communication methods can help individuals transition from poverty to a better financial situation. This process involves becoming aware of a new technology or practice, developing an interest in it, evaluating it, trying it out, and eventually adopting the technology or practice to enhance their livelihoods.

The diffusion model defines communication as information transfer, vertically. Development communication involves spreading information through mass media. Opponents of the diffusion model were concerned about its focus on innovation, persuasion, and the top-down approach, which prioritises adoption over recipient input in development decisions and processes. The key is transferring information from knowledge to attitudes to practice, focusing on outcome-oriented behaviour change.

When a government enforces a family planning policy or birth control directive, it will follow a top-down diffusion process. When a health app is required for subscription by the government, it must be promoted through all available media channels.

Model for Changing Behaviour in Development Communication: 

Media coverage results in greater understanding and shifts in attitudes. For instance, farmers primarily use mass media for entertainment, relaxation, to escape from problems, and to enliven their houses, so promoting a new herbicide can be done through television or radio. Here are some of the different types of media that can be utilised in social marketing and educational entertainment to promote behaviour change: Television and radio broadcasts feature programmes with interviews with experts, officials, and farmers, folk songs, and information about weather, market rates, the availability of improved seeds, and implements. Radio forums could include live broadcasts or programming tailored for the developing community regarding the specific intervention. Various formats are available, such as a studio panel engaging in a relevant discussion, with opportunities for communities to call or send messages.

It is important, however, to understand that development communication using various media is possible only with the active involvement of the following:
1. Development agencies resemble departments of agriculture.
2. Voluntary groups 
3. Engaged individuals 
4. Non-profit organisations (NGOs)

These groups play a crucial role in assisting the government with implementing development programmes. Here, the main goal for the government or a higher authority is to influence the behaviour of the target audience by implementing different strategies, such as introducing a new COVID protocol for masking and handwashing, encouraging the delay of having a second child, promoting cleanliness, etc.

The UN bodies also focus on promoting behaviour change communication through government and non-government agencies.

Participatory Model of Development Communication

In the late 1970s, a transition occurred towards a participatory approach rooted in a systems framework, focusing on horizontal communication where the poor and disadvantaged play a direct role in the communication process. They not only embrace but actively contribute to developing new technology, knowledge, and communication messages. Several factors contribute to the effectiveness of the participatory approach. Creating a participatory communication environment that encourages diverse ideas on societal developmental concerns, facilitating grassroots-level interaction, enhancing public information flow and dialogue on development policies and programmes, and distributing information content that reflects and responds to local values and information needs at the grassroots level. Utilising culturally fitting communication methods and content, the participatory approach leverages community communication access points, such as community radio, and integrates traditional media strengths like drama, dance, songs, and storytelling with modern information and communication technologies. For instance, a potent participatory communication approach can help address issues like child marriage, early child birth, and child abuse.

Understanding the three types of mentoring and learning in Devcom is crucial, including their characteristics, examples, and how to implement them in government, organisations, or civil society. Exploring numerous case studies is essential to fully understanding how they operate and the impact they have.

Competency in Communication

Given the transactional nature of communication, competence should be assessed based on interactions with others. Individuals who excel in teamwork typically outperform those who prefer working alone when it comes to reaching communication objectives. They have a strong grasp of communication effectiveness. Results are a measure of communication competence. Therefore, a person who understands the necessary changes in communication behaviour but fails to implement them cannot be considered a competent development communicator. They possess a keen sense of what is appropriate. A skilled communicator should be aware of the context. Avoid going against social or interpersonal norms, rules, or expectations. Being well-versed in the sector and media, having strong communication skills, social sensitivity, and values are essential for effectively putting people and the planet at the forefront of the conversation when it comes to development.

Numerous obstacles hinder communication and impact communication proficiency. We need to be able to recognise them and address them. Barriers can be found in all locations. Being aware of barriers such as environmental factors, semantic noise, channel noise, or socio-psychological factors is crucial for students of development communication. View these barriers not as impossible obstacles but as hurdles that can be conquered.

Engaging the community:

Essential to mastering development Communication Achievement and Result

Bringing together various social allies from different sectors to increase demand for a specific development programme, provide resources and services, and enhance community participation for sustainability and self-reliance is known as social mobilisation. Simply put, it involves bringing various social sectors, such as government leaders, civil society, and the business sector, together to take ownership and provide support for a specific development programme.

There are six key elements to social mobilisation: advocacy, information dissemination, community engagement, skill-building, forming connections, and assessing progress. Presenting information in a structured manner to influence a particular group to act towards a common objective. It encompasses advocating, defending, suggesting, and backing a policy. Targets for advocacy involve national and local leaders, policymakers, and decision-makers. Strategies and tactics are utilised in social mobilisation to create a well-informed and supportive atmosphere for decision-making. Ensuring sufficient resources are allocated to inform and engage stakeholders through various communication channels. IEC aims to transform knowledge, attitudes, opinions, and values. Engaging in community organising means enhancing the community’s ability to solve problems, make decisions, and take collective action. Community organising acts as a spark for the neighbourhood to take action.

This method suggests that enhancing services is possible through the active involvement of individuals in their implementation. Utilising the community’s potential, especially in maintaining its own capacity development. Training is provided to enhance individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills. This part of the social mobilisation process helps individuals build skills in managing their connections, sharing resources, solving problems, and taking collective action. By connecting and forming partnerships, individuals can unite those with common interests and initiatives. These consist of what the Asian Institute of Management identifies as the four pillars of governance: local government units (LGUs); nongovernment organisations (NGOs); the business sector; and civil society (schools, media, religious, and socio-civic organisations).

It is essential for Devcom mentoring and learning to incorporate social mobilisation strategies and techniques that are tailored to specific contexts.

The Devcom learning-mentoring today needs the following:
A) Historical knowledge of the evolution of Devcom across the decades since the Second World War
(B) Types of Devcom (especially the three critical ones) with case studies of each (successful and failed ones)
(C) Understanding the values and barriers of Devcom and how to enhance personal communication competency along with skills of social mobilisation
(D) Understanding media convergence and how to seamlessly utilise all types of media platforms and forms of communication functions to achieve the desired impact
(E) Transformational leadership and committed teamwork skills
(F) Actually creating a multimedia communication campaign on a given brief of purpose
(G) Finally, the experience of actually implementing a development communication strategy and plan in a real-life context. 

The author is a known media and communication educationist, Executive Director of International Online University, Strategic Adviser and Professor with Dhaka based Daffodil International University and Kolkata based Adamas University, apart from being the Vice President of Global Media Education Council.

Ujjwal K Chowdhury

Prof. Ujjwal K. Chowdhury is a maverick who travels between media academics and media practice, between profession and social activism, between travelling and staying put. Prof. Chowdhury is Executive Director of the US-registered, Dubai-based International Online University. He has been the strategic adviser to two leading Asian universities. He previously served as Adamas University's Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities, Pearl Academy, and AMP; Whistling Woods International. He is the secretary of the Global Media Education Council. He is also the President, Strategy & Planning of the Indian Diaspora Global. He is a firm believer in the convergence of technology and learning for a better tomorrow. He had been a wanderer, working as a media consultant in Nepal, consulting with the Amsterdam Film School in the Netherlands, working on films for WHO in several nations, and working with Acore Media in Dubai. He speaks and writes on various platforms and works on civil society initiatives in media, youth entrepreneurship, and democracy. Facebook Twitter

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