Six students from the Graduate Institute for International Development and Applied Economics (GIIDAE) at the University of Reading have contributed to the Communications for Development Network (C4D) project of mapping the landscape of the C4D sector in different countries around the world.
The C4D sector is a growing field within international development that is becoming increasingly defined and recognised in its own right. However, little is understood about how exactly it is practiced around the world. The C4D Network decided to conduct a research project based on the perceptions and experiences of its members into C4D practices, funding, stakeholders, and key examples in different countries.
The mapping project sought to provide a crowd-sourced comprehensive understanding of C4D in each country, as well as an overview of the global trends as understood and experienced by Network members and practitioners. Through this work, the Network hoped to enable practitioners to analyse their own situations within a wider context and to learn from the best practices of others.
The research was conducted within the Network’s annual Meet-Up Challenge, which has run for a number of years and consists of face to face meet-ups between Network members and experts in countries all over the world. For this year’s challenge, which ran between September 2016 and January 2017, rich discussions were held in 16 different countries and regions from Australia to Zimbabwe. The Network recorded and transcribed the discussions, reports of which can be found in the country chapter groups on this page. In addition, a questionnaire was also sent to members to help gather data from in 50 countries around the world.
MSc Communication for Development students, Cecilia Agrinya, Himani Chandel, Angelo Matinada, Tatiana Joiro, Azeez Toheeb, and Patricia Vega, all contributed to the research and are currently receiving professional mentoring from C4D Network founder, Jackie Davies, as part of their taught programme. Jackie said: “The students all contributed sterling work to write up the individual country reports. They synthesised the answers we received on each country and analysed the findings within the global context of our work.
“Tatiana also contributed greatly to the meta-analysis of our research and presented the findings at our monthly London focus session, which was received with excitement and enthusiasm by members who attended in January.”
The mapping results stimulated interesting conversations between C4D practitioners globally. One key discussion surrounded issues with the language used within the sector. Jackie explains: “There was recognition by many of our members that the standard C4D language and concepts are being pushed by international organisations and institutions, however, in practice different terminology is often used despite the basic principles and practices remaining the same.
“Indeed, one of the most common concerns raised by our members was that many practitioners don’t realise that what they’re doing is C4D. The C4D Network is working on establishing a case study bank for this reason, to encourage a case by case approach to understanding how C4D can be used successfully and to enable a meta-analysis of best practice.”
It also identified that issues surrounding terminology mean that the level of stakeholder engagement is not widely known, as stakeholders do not necessarily use the C4D label. There is not a lot of understanding on the ground about what a C4D professional does. Often, Communications for Development is confused with Public Relations or External Communications, which makes it difficult to map practices, research results and define the concept for donors. Most of our members in non-European or North American countries stated that C4D practitioners are extremely scarce where they work.”
Jackie continued: “Another point highlighted by members is the effect that political context has on the implementation of C4D. This was raised especially during discussions about the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), where it was noted that the government agenda is imposed on development projects with little room for negotiation by donors and practitioners. This means that development in general is led by political considerations, rather than need.
“The Behaviour Change Communications (BCC) approach featured by far the most prominently in our responses, with an average mention of 1.3 times per country. And the most common tools included Social Media, a recent development and largely inflated by its prevalence in the MENA region. Radio, Television and Edutainment also featured highly.”
These findings, and many more, are included in the final report, which is now available on the Network website.
Jackie added: “This project is the first of its kind, and the Network is keen to build on its successes. The hard work of the Reading students has formed a strong base for mapping projects of a similar nature in the future, and we look forward to continuing our work with them after their studies to help define, consolidate and expand the C4D sector.”
GIIDAE Director and Programme Director for the MSc Communication for Development, Sarah Cardey, says: “This work builds on the relationship that we have with the C4D network, and brings important real world experience into the classroom. I am proud of our students for taking the initiative to work with the C4D Network, building on the professional training that we provide in the curriculum. Students will graduate with excellent professional experience.”
(This article first appeared in Reading University’s GIIDAE enewsletter | April 2017 and is reproduced with permission from Reading University)