MAZI Articles

Ensuring Vulnerable People Have Information and Communication Channels: Communication for Empowerment
by Birgitte Jallov

Central to the communication for social change approach is the fact that media can play a crucial role in helping people who are poor and powerless improve their lives.

An effective method to achieve this aim is through media support and media capacity that enable the media to improve how they respond to, and reflect, the information and communication needs of people who are poor and powerless.

This kind of media support is called communication for empowerment, an important driver to securing the participation, ownership and accountability necessary to reach the Millennium Development Goals. A growing body of evidence suggests that, to achieve these goals, everyone must participate.

Communication for empowerment is for everyone—including people who are living in poverty and are marginalised. It is an approach through which everyone is able to make informed decisions about their lives and to have channels for being vocal in this process. Information and communication audits will assist in identifying gaps: areas needing improvement. Improving these options and opportunities will highly increase the opportunities for achieving the MDGs.

To facilitate this effort, a handy reference has been published: Communication for Empowerment: Developing Media Strategies in Support of Vulnerable Groups, a Practical Guidance Note. (See the Consortium’s Web site for full text.).

Today, these methodologies are being turned into a practical and useful tool for national strategic planning processes. They ensure that information and communication for all is at the centre of national strategic plans and subsequent development programmes.

A pilot process has been initiated to test the assessment tool. Five countries have been identified to take part in this process based on demonstrated national commitment to the overall communication for empowerment approach.

What is the overall aim of communication for empowerment?

An approach that places the information and communication needs of people who are poor and marginalised groups at the centre of media support, communication for empowerment ensures that the media have the capacity and capability to provide the information that marginalised groups want and need. It also provides a channel for marginalised groups to discuss and voice their perspectives on issues that concern them.

Why now?

Reasons driving communication for empowerment approach today include the importance of communication in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; the growing recognition that participation by all is key to what works; and the increase worldwide of initiatives to empower people.

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals

More and more, forums across the globe highlight the fact that, to reach the Millennium Development Goals, it’s necessary to empower everyone, including vulnerable and traditionally marginalised groups. This empowerment requires adequate information and communication.

Overall objective of the Information and Communication Audit process:

  • Identify information and communication needs of vulnerable groups;
  • Identify the degree to which these needs are met; and
  • Identify how these needs are met.

Result expected at national level from research:

  • Identify information and communication channels;
  • Identify the role / importance / potential of each of these;
  • Identify unmet needs;
  • Identify strategies to meet unmet needs; and
  • Identify ways and means to meet unmet needs within strategy.

Pilot project carried out by:

  • UNDP Oslo Governance Centre;
  • Communication for Social Change Consortium; and
  • National UNDP office: driver of national process.

Funding from:

  • UNDEF funding; and
  • UNDP Oslo Governance Centre funding

For the identified projects to fill identified information and communication gaps:

  • Additional fundraising necessary for implementing projects

Testing audit methodology:

  • Five pilot countries: three African; two Asian;
  • Operationalisation of overall audit methodology;
  • Adaptation and revision of methodology; and
  • Preparation of generic strategic tool.

National Process:

  • Desk study;
  • National consortium of stakeholders formed;
  • Research: national and local; leaders and people who are marginalised;
  • Compile data;
  • Produce national report ;
  • National launch; and
  • Proposals developed, funds raised for meeting identified challenges.

Expected outcomes:
National level:

  • National reports, identification of strategic responses to identified needs;
  • Pilot projects to fill identified gaps (seed funds with fundraising needed); and
  • National stakeholder group formed to facilitate continued process.

Global level:

  • Documentation to advance understanding of need;
  • Tool to introduce into national strategic planning processes; and
  • Introduction of information and communication centrally in national planning.

Timeframes for communication for empowerment process:

  • August 2007—March 2008: African pilot audits; Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi;
  • May 2008: Mid term review; assessment, revision, moving forward;
  • June-November 2008: Asian pilot audits; and
  • December 2008: Final review and global launch of strategic tool.

For more information and additional links, see the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre’s Web site:

Click here to return to MAZI 14