Our Evolving Education ProgrammesOur educational programmes are also a response to requests from those seeking to catalyse the process of communication for social change focused on significant issues of health, economics, education and others. The need for programmes in CFSC recognizes that while many other programmes do excellent jobs in training skilled communicators and journalists, few have focused on communication strategists acting as facilitators and builders of social capital through communication.
Mutual learning-- from talking, thinking and acting together-- is at the heart of the communicator\community relationship in communication for social change. The cornerstone of the social change process itself is acting together on what is learned in dialogue with others -- and continually learning from those actions to increase the collective capacity to transform society. The goal of the outside communicator's work from the outset should be to become unnecessary. The communicator should facilitate mutual learning that provides the community with the communication strategies, roles, methods, skills and tools it needs to develop itself and to make its own changes, and, in the process, become a self-renewing society. It follows naturally that learning programmes for communicators have become a primary focus for the Consortium.
Our theoretical base is found in the work of Paulo Freire and others who taught the wisdom of involving all voices in development, and creating new space for the voices of the oppressed, the poor and the marginalized. From Freire, we borrow the concepts of gaining critical insights about current conditions of power through raising consciousness and through dialogue leading to social transformation, which he calls praxis. We have learned also from those who have made important contributions in participatory communications as a strategy and means of monitoring and evaluation.
Our training workshops and degree program models are based on a dialogue with academics and practitioners from all over the world. With our colleagues, we developed a set of training recommendations to university and nonprofit leadership. Those models continue to evolve. The original working group was charged with writing curriculum outlines for a university graduate level program; for a short course geared toward nonprofit and public sector professionals and decision makers; and for a field course that could train trainers in CFSC.
With other colleagues, we developed a vocabulary and set of competencies for practitioners.
Our teaching approach is, to the extent permitted by time and resources, to form a learning community in which students and teacher can engage with the values and methods of communication for social change. With our students, in learning community dialogues, we endeavour to strengthen their abilities and add to network of people who can help with the process of communication for social change.
The CFSC Consortium has developed and will introduce courses and programmesat the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and at Royal Roads University in Canada. The first degree program based on our work will begin at Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla in Colombia with staff resources from the Consortium and support for communication research projects with their students and faculty. We are in discussions with other academic institutions and training organizations throughout the world, many of which have expressed interest in joining our network.
Whether we focus on a short course or a degree program, the learning begins with an understanding of the limits and the possibilities of communication for social change. Practitioners don't "do" communication for social change. No single individual "does" a process that must involve collective dialogue, planning and implementation.
Communication for social change happens as a result of collective dialogue, decision and action and, when it does, leads to sustained results that could not be achieved by other communication approaches. A change in the norms of female education, for example, from dialogue that says "why bother keeping girls in school" to one which says, "of course, they must graduate" takes time and has staying power. But we also believe that urgent issues may require message-oriented communication strategies; warnings, for example, must be posted at poisoned wells. Our goal is to keep the communication options in context and, even where campaigns are essential, to weave them into a longer-term process of communication for social change.
We often say that, for communicators, communication for social change is a "new way of thinking and working."
We believe it is essential to embrace the values that support the process. We believe that communication must be bottoms up (as opposed to top down and externally generated), empowering, and based upon principles of tolerance, equity, justice, and unleashing the voices of the previously unheard.
To work effectively, communicators must develop their own skills as necessary. They must also learn them to teach others. Listening, facilitation, negotiation, partnering, conflict resolution and many other skills may be required of a social change communicator who has before focused primarily on messages and media.
Most importantly, communicators must be strategists, working in a dialogue with others to design strategies and learn from them. Our goal is to help communicators learn how those strategies can be created, while relying on dialogue with those most affected, through what has been called a process of "thinking together."