Monday, July 30, 2012

In search of yellow watermelon...Chesterhill Produce Auction, here we come!

Team 1 of the UNICEF/Ohio University Communication for Development (C4D) workshop is collaborating with the community-based organization Rural Action to develop a communication strategy to promote the Chesterhill Produce Auction. As part of the workshop, we spent the week of July 23-27) conducting "formative research" to learn all we could about the area and about the auction. On Monday we had a GREAT session at Ohio University led by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, which covered the historical, political and cultural context in Appalachia and south-east Ohio. On Tuesday, our international group of UNICEF professionals from 8 different countries (Swaziland, Ghana, China, France, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Moldova, and Bangladesh) traveled to the office of Rural Action in Trimble. There we listened and learned about the importance of local food systems and efforts to promote income generation, access to nutritious food, and local self-sufficiency. Rural Action is dedicated to fostering "social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio,"  and the Chesterhill Produce Auction is one activity (among many) that supports that mission.

On Tuesday, we went to the site of the auction and held a focus group discussion with farmers and community members. One thing we learned during the focus group is that people have a variety of reasons - beyond produce - to attend the auction. As one person stated,  "There is a family environment - it's not just an auction... it's also a chance to socialize."

Interested in socializing ourselves, we visited the auction this past Thursday (July 26). Some headed straight for the small fixed-price store within the auction to buy Rhubarb pies and handmade soaps. Those of us who said we might not bid on produce (because we weren't sure how to do it), soon found ourselves in heated "bidding wars" over berries and melons (Victorious!).

In the end, we were SO successful with our auction purchases that we organized a group dinner to cook up our hard-earned produce. During dinner we experienced the joys of fresh, locally-produced vegetables.

What was our overall experience at the auction? Exciting, educational, nutritious AND delicious!

What if we looked at the ASSETS in a community.... (instead of focusing on deficits?)  This would be a "Positive Deviance" approach to social change!

What is Positive Deviance?

Here is the definition provided on the website of the Positive Deviance Initiative  (at Tufts University):

"Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges. The Positive Deviance (PD) approach is an asset-based, problem-solving, and community-driven approach that enables the community to discover these successful behaviors and strategies and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned."

For those of you in the UNICEF/Ohio University "Communication for Development" course who are interested in learning more about PD, the link to the Positive Deviance Initiative website can be found above.

Linking here to a story by PD pioneer Jerry Sternin, and another short write up by Dr. Arvind Singhal, who was speaking on PD during the course this week. (Yolanda, as I add these links I am thinking of you!!) :)

Oh, and there is also a book!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I received an email from Arvind Singhal this afternoon in which he requested that I pass along the following:

"Dear UNICEF Colleagues:

I eagerly look forward to meeting each one of you during our Thursday session on Entertainment-Education (11 to 1 p.m.) and Friday session on the Positive Deviance approach (8:30 to 10:30).

I enclose two breezy readings (one for each session) which you may peruse in a breezy manner before we meet, reading between the lines for the “big ideas”….

Also, I will be in the breakfast area of the OU Inn from 7:30 a.m. onwards on Thursday and so if you are in the area, feel free to drop by and say hello!   I am the ‘onion’ with two roses in this picture below!


You can find the readings Dr. Singhal is referring to on the course materials site under the readings for the workshops. You can also link to them here (E-E) and here (P-D). You'll have to enter your username and password to download these readings from these links.

Enjoy the rest of the day!

- Andrew

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The "new" role of C4D strategies and theory

During the course of our work today, I heard from a participant (several, actually) about some of the ways in which working for UNICEF is no longer related to "grassroots" organizations, but now tends to involve policymakers and government stakeholders. Given this situation, the question for us as C4D practitioners is "what is the role of C4D in this type of organization and how does C4D practice relate to these new priorities"?

Of course I'd welcome your comments on this, but I have a couple of ideas of my own that I'll share.

First, here is the definition of C4D in the UNICEF context. Note that it is not limited to behavior change but includes things like policy advocacy and humanitarian work more generally. With this in mind, the answer to the question above may shift - if a C4D specialist is not working with a grassroots organization, perhaps they are working on creating communication to influence policy change or to influence government entities to adopt policies that protect and promote the human rights of citizens.

Second, many of the participants in the workshop work directly with local organizations which ARE working at the grassroots level. Have a look at this page to see some ways in which UNICEF partners with civil society organizations. Clearly, being able to share experiences and knowledge related to human rights, values, principles, as well as the technical knowledge of theory and how to conduct research will be of value for the partner organization and its clients.

Finally, a word about theory. The application of communication theories in the context of development and C4D has not always been as systematic as it is today (remember Silvio's Family Tree of Theories). Theory provides us with an evidence based framework for choosing a useful approach to creating communication materials. While some of the theories we draw upon in communication are many decades old (diffusion of innovations, health belief model) they are field tested and can provide us with helpful guideposts in the C4D process. What's new (or newer) is the systematic application of communication theory in C4D in conjunction with a dialogic process between the development organization and community.

I hope some of you might add your "two cents" to this post and my thoughts about the role of C4D in your contexts.
Welcome everyone to the blog for the UNICEF/Ohio University Face to Face workshop on C4D, taking place in Athens, Ohio, from July 22nd - August 4th and again from August 13th - August 23rd.

We created this blog for workshop participants and facilitators to contribute their thoughts on issues related to workshop content, things happening in Athens and southeastern Ohio, and the field of C4D in general.

Please feel free to add your own post and comment on the posts of others!