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.

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