Communication processes are central to broader empowerment practices through which people are able to arrive at their own understanding of issues, consider and discuss ideas, negotiate and engage in public debates at community and national levels. This role in empowerment processes helps distinguish Communication for Development (C4D) from other forms of communication and makes it a vital element in achieving the Millennium Development Goals with equity.
C4D is a perfect process for the three main measures described in the equity-based approach paper, “Narrowing the Gaps”.
Upgrade selected facilities
C4D can help improve the quality of facilities through strengthening the inter-personal skills of care providers; C4D believes that capacity development is not only about knowledge of disease and well-being but also about health worker/patient interaction whether through one-on-one consultations or regular group discussion sessions. C4D methodologies cut across all programme sectors to ensure that materials are meaningful for their audiences and available on an ongoing basis.
Overcome barriers that prevent the poorest from using services
While user fees and cash transfers are useful tools, they are two amongst many that influence people’s ability and willingness to utilize available services. C4D urges the use of an appropriate mix of tools and communication channels, including mass media, but also including interpersonal and “mid” media methods. Most people are not comfortable using new information seen or heard in the mass media without having an opportunity to discuss it with someone they trust. Person-to-person communication should be supplemented but not replaced by mass campaigns. C4D methodology requires facilitating participant groups, especially the most marginalized, to become engaged in meaningful dialogue.
It is important to reach remote communities, children and women with disabilities and members of minority ethnic or religious children and families. It is vital that women and girls participate as fully as men and boys. C4D recognizes that people may want to change but may not be able to act alone, so it supports them to mobilize existing networks or create ones that encourage more individuals and families to adopt and sustain new behaviours.
“Task shifting” to the community
C4D is and always has been absolutely supportive of “enhanced community involvement” in seeking improvement in children’s well-being. A basic principle of C4D methodology is providing people on-going opportunities to discuss, shape and absorb new information for themselves and their communities. While to some this may mean “task shifting”, to C4D, community involvement is key to achieving social change.
People are more likely to trust information and act on it to change behaviours if they are encouraged to discuss the issues among themselves and to ask questions; understand how they and their families and communities will benefit; and hear repeated, simple and consistent information in familiar language, compatible with local cultures and from different (and trusted) sources. Finally, C4D urges understanding that people need to be given time to change, especially if the change may carry a cost, including possible exclusion from their community.
The equity focus is inherent in C4D principles and methodologies. The implications for the practice of C4D throughout the organization as a result of “Narrowing the Gaps” should be a greater understanding of, and demand for, the technical competencies that C4D specialists bring to the table. If behaviour and social change communication is thoroughly integrated into planning and programming, additional human and financial resources will be needed.
Story from the field