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Communication for Development (C4D)

Strategy development

UNICEF Image: Pakistan, 2008 Consulting Community Information Board, member of Parents Teacher's Association (PTA) discuss school and community issues in Basti Arian Government Boys Primary School.
© © UNICEF/PAKA2008-0357/Noorani

Communication strategy development could come at any stage of the programme process. Regardless of when it occurs, the communication professional must work closely with programme staff, partners and stakeholders. A sound communication strategy requires understanding how the specific programme is designed to respond to the development challenge.

The purpose of the communication strategy is to see how programme structures can be adapted or strengthened for communication purposes and/or where communication can help the programme achieve some of its objectives. Communication is not a separate event; it should be integrated with and complement the programme's structures and resources. Below are suggested areas to include.

Define objectives

Communication objectives state the anticipated change in knowledge, attitudes and practices related to the development issue in the participant groups. The role that communication can play in achieving those objectives should be identified through research and analysis. Communication objectives identify how participants' and partners' behaviours will develop or change; objectives are outcomes, not activities.

All communication objectives should be SMART:
1. Simple and clear
2. Measurable
3. Achievable
4. Reasonable
5. Time and location specific

Involve the community

The planning, implementing and monitoring communication should be done through and with the communities affected by the development programme. More than just pre-testing communication materials with relevant participant groups, communities need to be heard when defining problems and solutions, deciding on actionable behaviours, organizing activities and monitoring outcomes.

This means that community participation should be built throughout the strategy as a long term support system for sustainable behaviour change and not merely used as another channel for information dissemination or as another strategic approach. A good communication strategy, therefore, will create opportunities for those outside the elite circles of power to express themselves and to take part in the solutions which affect their own lives.

In Mozambique, the C4D communication strategy for preventing the sexual abuse of girls was based on a multi-channel, multi-level approach that included children, young people, families, communities, service providers as well as local and national government. The wholistic and inclusive strategy then served as a framework for the Mininistry of Educations' national media campaign ‘Zero tolerance of sexual abuse against children’.   

Theory into Practice - Involving the community

  • Shift emphasis from delivery of messages to or by community members, to dialogue and linkages with service delivery and/or local government. Advocacy at the local level for example, needs to be driven by community input.
  • Shift from problems to appreciation. Approach the community engagement process from an appreciative perspective so that the local knowledge system is understood and valued instead of perceived as an obstacle that must be overcome. For example, mothers-in-law often perpetuate traditional practices that undermine exclusive breastfeeding. A good communication strategy will learn about their role in the family and work with the strengths of this group to support exclusive breastfeeding in their family and community.
  • Adapt expert solutions to the community reality. Value traditional wisdom and experiential knowledge alongside technical/scientific information and practices. The outcome (in action plans, behavioural objectives, messages, etc.) should be a blend.

Design the strategy

Strategies organize communication components for each communication objective using the following:

  1. Which components are appropriate for each objective
  2. How the components will be shaped

 The Three Components of a Strategy


informs and motivates appropriate leaders to create a supportive environment for the programme by: changing policies, allocating resources, speaking out on critical issues and initiating public discussion.

Social mobilization

is a process of harnessing selected partners to raise demand for or sustain progress toward a development objective. Social mobilization enlists the participation of institutions, community networks and social and religious groups to use their membership and other resources to strengthen participation in activities at the grass-roots level.

Behaviour and social change

involves face-to-face dialogue with individuals or groups to inform, motivate, problem-solve or plan, with the objective to promote behaviour change.




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