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Communication for Development (C4D)

Community engagement

Social mobilisation

Fathya and the army of volunteers combating cholera in Yemen

Communities are vital to affecting positive change in the lives of children. UNICEF works with communities through two intersecting and re-enforcing approaches, social mobilization and community engagement.  

Community engagement focuses on collective or group participation, not on any particular behaviour. It empowers communities and their social networks to reflect on and address a range of behaviours, issues and decisions that affect their lives and to proactively involved in their development. Community participation is a strategy that raises awareness and strengthens the capacity of both “rights holders” and “duty bearers” to assess, analyze, plan, facilitate, implement and monitor and evaluate interventions that will promote the survival, development, protection and participation of children and women. 

Social mobilization is a process to engage a wide range of traditional, community, civil society and opinion leaders around a common cause or issue. Expanding beyond community engagement as a focus, social mobilization reaches out to non-governmental organisations, professional groups/networks, youth groups, women’s groups, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, professional networks and the private sector to catalyse these different groups to take action and/or support change a common cause (e.g. immunization or Vitamin A supplementation; back to school campaigns etc.). Through alliance-building and partnerships often combined with media campaigns, social mobilization also engages and motivates various partners at national and local levels to raise awareness of and demand for a particular development objective and to provide sustainable, multi-faceted solutions to broad social problems.

Sustainable social and behavior change requires collaboration at multiple levels, as partnerships yield stronger impacts than isolated efforts. Therefore, strategies of social mobilization and community engagement include using advocacy to mobilize resources, media and leaders to raise awareness, create public spheres for debate and build partnerships.

A day in the life of a community midwife in Yemen
A community midwife in Bani Hushaysh, Ms. Abdu, completed training on community-based maternal and newborn care. The training is given to community midwives to equip them with essential lifesaving skills.

On the beat with a community health worker in Sierra Leone 
A young volunteer works to help his community access better health care. Like almost everyone else in the village of Kathirie in Sierra Leone’s Bombali District, Osman is a farmer. But four years ago, he added a new set of skills when he was trained to join the ranks of Sierra Leone’s cadre of Community Health Workers (CHWs).

A rush to contain measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Community Conversation Group helps 13 year old Lakech cancel her arranged marriage
Lakech and her family accessed the Revolving Fund to prevent child marriage. So-called because when funding is paid back by beneficiaries it is reinvested into the next family who needs it, so it circulates within the community.

Community health volunteers improve child and maternal nutrition in Nepal 
More than 50,000 health volunteers provide a crucial link to health services in 29 districts that have the highest rates of under nutrition. The programme uses a multi-sector approach, combining nutrition, health, water and sanitation, agriculture and social protection interventions to maximize the positive effects on child and maternal nutrition.

Reaching out to root out Ebola in Guinea
A dozen people sit in the shade of a jackfruit tree, commenting on an illustration that shows a Muslim cleric and a few mourners watch men in protective suits conducting a burial. “While there is Ebola, we cannot have burials the way we are used to. We cannot touch the body,” one of the villagers says, drawing nods and mm-hmms of approval from the rest of the audience.

Psychosocial counselling goes on the radio in Nepal 
Radio Nepal has the country’s largest listener audience, with over 70 per cent of the 27.5 million population. They launched a special new programme to help listeners cope with the aftermath of the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Barely a few hours had passed since the programme the first show, when telephones started ringing in the studio with concerns from parents about their children.

Community leaders unite against malnutrition in Burundi

Young people play a leading role in peacebuilding efforts
Developing the leadership and peacebuilding skills of adolescents is a pillar of UNICEF’s strategy to confront long-standing social divisions. Working with Centre Ubuntu in Burundi, youth are trained on peaceful resolution of conflicts, leadership, development and empowerment.

Social mobilizers empower ‘hotspot’ communities to fight Ebola
There are 788 ‘hotspot busters’ in Sierra Leone that deploy rapidly to communities that are considered hotspots of the epidemic, as part of an immediate response to an outbreak. Members of the community themselves, hotspot busters are trained to intensify social mobilization activities and increase engagement of communities to stop the spread of Ebola. They conduct one-on-one sensitization sessions, house-to-house visits and public awareness-raising. To ensure that the hotspot is covered, the social mobilizers activate youth, women and volunteer networks in each community and reach approximately 9,000 households every week. They are involved in active community surveillance and are approached by community members to call the 117 Ebola hotline to refer sick loved ones to hospital.

Paz a la Joven mobilizes youth to promote non-violence - YouTube
The joint UNICEF and Colombian Presidential Youth Council's programme is a youth for peace project that mobilized youth to create 25 areas of peace across the country. The goal was to generate a network young people who want to build and contribute to peace in their territories. Some of the topics that young people share were their experiences of exclusive socialization, reconciliation, historical memory and the social construction of peace.

©UNICEF Colombia/video

Community support system brings better healthcare to villagers
The Community Support System (ComSS) in Bangladesh is one of the clinical interventions to generate demand for quality healthcare services from public health facilities. Interpersonal communication on key behaviours and harmful social norms for children has helped reduced infant mortality by more than 70% over the past two decades. 

Community health workers received training in interpersonal communication
With on-going socio-economic crises impacting the available health services, the community health workers provide crucial coverage in Madagascar. The health workers conduct essential outreach to families on issues such as proper hand washing, not defecating in the open and vaccinating children. Many of the health workers are also parents from the local community, lending additional legitimacy to their message. 

Social mobilization campaigns help reduce child mortality in Madagascar
Eliane is one of 164 social community workers who conduct essential and effective outreach to families, largely because nobody knows better how to talk to parents in a community than people from the community itself. The community health worker programme is an essential pillar of a wider social mobilization programme that UNICEF and partners are running in Madagascar. Carnivals, discussions on local radio stations and concerts are other pillars of this programme.

Adolescents use kites and GPS cameras, mapped their favelas
The youth focus socio-environmental risks and develop methods to use the data in order to improve the lives of children and families in their communities by mapping risks and resources. The resulting information has been used the Morro dos Prazeres in Brazil to mobilize the community to clean accumulated garbage and help prevent landslides and a variety of health hazards.

Youth map a city's risks and learn about health and technology
As part of a holistic approach to treating HIV/AIDS, adolescents from the low-income communities of Cité Plus and Village de Dieu in Haiti engaged in a mapping initiative in two Port-au-Prince communities that is intended to reveal the obstacles that keep vulnerable adolescents – particularly girls – from gaining access to HIV prevention services. The adolescents learned about HIV risks, modes of transmission and prevention methods, and received instruction in digital mapping.

Community Information Boards (CIB) help communities track the health of their children
The Community Information Boards, in Nigeria, are an innovative mechanism that helps communities track the health and well-being of their children and women and empowers them to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. A simple board is used to display basic social and development data that communities use to track the health and well-being of their children and to drive community dialogues.

A volunteer’s commitment to helping Syrian mothers and babies in Iraq
Now in her new life Janda and a cadre of volunteers at the camp work with pregnant women and new mothers to provide prenatal and post-natal counseling and care. Mothers from Darashkran camp bring a new baby into this world about once every day, so Janda has to be alert and active. Early in the morning, with her supervisor and the other volunteers, Janda gathers her equipment and outlines the day’s work plan.



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