Gaining Speed and Confidence: Reflections on Progress - Message from Denise Gray-Felder
These are "the dog days" in North America, those end-of-summer weeks when time seems to stand still. Well, the Consortium's "clock" is on high speed. We don't sleep much these days keeping up with the demand for our services as we mature into a global nonprofit organization with broad reach, a strong voice, proven work record, effective convening power and impact.
When we started this journey"”after testing and refining the CFSC vision while still a programme of the Rockefeller Foundation for seven years"”we gave ourselves five years for our start-up mode. Well, we shot past that descriptor in our first 12 months of operation.
Today, the CFSC Consortium is managing projects in Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, the United States and the United Kingdom. We're working on a global scale for Stop TB, and for ad hoc groups concerned with implementing the communication recommendations of the Report on the Commission for Africa, and moving forward communication recommendations to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. We sit on the planning committee for the First World Congress on Communication for Development. (See call for abstracts in this issue of Mazi.) We've signed an agreement with Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia, to help introduce a master's degree programme in Communication for Social Change and to fund CFSC fellows from Latin America. We're in similar discussions with universities in southern Africa, Latin America, Europe, Canada and the United States.
As a resource for CFSC university and practitioner education, the Consortium editors are in the final editing stages for the Communication for Social Change Anthology: Contemporary and Historical Readings, which we will publish in early 2006. (See ordering information in this issue.)
Consortium staff and consultants continue to write, speak and present our ideas at global, regional, national and local forums held around the world. In September we will host the kick-off meetings of the CFSC university and practitioner networks in partnership with University of Philippines at Los Bańos.
And, just as importantly, we are learning how CFSC works and when it doesn't work as part of our ongoing commitment to build the body of knowledge and make such knowledge broadly available.
In many places, participatory monitoring and evaluation techniques, such as Most Significant Change, are generating tremendous interest and are being tested. Led by Will Parks and Ailish Byrne, the Consortium has produced three new publications dealing with participatory monitoring and evaluation. We've included ordering information for you in this issue of Mazi and on our Web site.
Most places I go I'm thrilled to hear people stand up and declare that communication for development must represent all voices and foster participation. It must be documented and evaluated by the people most affected by the communication initiatives, and it must adhere to CFSC principles of justice, equity, tolerance, respect for indigenous knowledge and shared learning.
A few months ago, we were in northern Nigeria working on polio communication documentation with Unicef-Nigeria. At the local government area level, the district -level and the national-level Nigerians are engaging in dialogue and community-based planning and action. Their goal: Ensuring that all Nigerian children receive the polio vaccine. In northern Nigeria, this dialogue takes the form of community meetings with village government heads and traditional leaders, discussions within mosques led by mullahs and imams, at "Flag Off"¯ ceremonies connected with National Immunization Days, in homes where mothers gather to discuss the public health importance of polio vaccines, in churches or during wedding and birthing ceremonies.
We saw some fascinating evidence that, since the resumption of polio immunization in Kano, which suspended immunization for 11 months last year, key community leaders, government officials, and those working for NGOs, the government and multilateral agencies, have come together to use dialogue-based communication as a key "tool of choice"¯ in helping people internalise the value of polio vaccination. We're also learning what happens when not enough attention is paid to communicating with all elements of a society at times when rumours and misinformation are rampant. Such was the case in parts of northern Nigeria when people erroneously believed rumours claiming that polio vaccines were somehow harmful to their children, daughters in particular.
Going forward, Unicef and its partners, the Consortium, the Nigerian government and others will help communities use participatory documentation systems so people can track and document at the village and regional levels how information flows, where informal and formal channels of communication are most effective, how misinformation is managed and combatted and how the stories of polio immunization are changing or have changed over time. As stories change they give hints as to how social norms and public values are shifting. One goal in work like this is to bring about lasting changes in how people and their neighbors normally think, teach their children and behave about immunization.
This is exciting work.
At times I've said that doing communication work for development issues can be like sleepwalking in fog: You know you're moving but you're not sure why or where.
These days, as I walk it is with clearer vision. Thanks to our many supporters, partners, funders and clients, we have been able to test a few new paths and re-trace our steps in others. In the coming year we expect to expand our focus into democracy and governance, education, malaria, poverty reduction, habitats, and arts and culture"”to name a few issues.
Yet our growth will not happen without the continued support of people like you, our readers, donors, network members, partners and clients. If you believe that there is room within the communication field for greater emphasis on participatory approaches, we hope you'll join the Consortium by making a financial contribution using the "Donate"¯ button in this issue.
Meanwhile, please send us your stories, cases, evidence, data and anecdotes of how communication for social change approaches are working in your part of the world.When we celebrate our third anniversary with a gala celebration of the cultures and communication of developing countries next spring, your story may well be one of those told.
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