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About the Author

Larisa Rankovic
Media analyst and researcher (Belgrade, Serbia)

Media researcher and analyst. Living in Belgrade, Serbia.

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COMMUNIcation and COMMUNIty development

Published 04th January 2011 - 0 comments - 15265 views -

participatory communication


An interesting book lays on my table: Understanding Community Media, edited by Kevin Howley, published in 2010. One of the chapters is dealing with the role of communication in community development, explaining with lots of precision how the forms and contents of communication through the media have changed over the previous decades in order to contribute development. We have been dealing a lot during 2010 on this platform with the relation between media and development, and I think summary of research from the above mentioned book could be useful and interesting addition.
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Development communication aims to transform existing living conditions through communication strategies, practices, and technologies.
After the Second World War, development communication evolved as a strategy for dealing with the development issues: Poverty reduction, raising literacy, disease prevention and control and so on. In sum, for improving the quality of life for people of the scaled underdeveloped world.
Since then, the language, practices and objectives of development communication have changed, in line with the changes of information and communication technologies, and 'as a reflection of worldwide interest in economic regeneration, social inclusion, and community capacity-building initiatives.'
In the beginning, development was synonymous with modernization, while communication was dominated by the linear model which privileges the sender over the receiver of the message.
This approach was critiqued on several grounds. First, it was said, development projects needed to recognize the values of traditional media: Song and dance, storytelling, street theater etc. Second group of critiques asserted that development projects focused on the symptoms rather than the causes of  unbalanced development. In this view, development communication amounted to a form of neocolonialism 'that used mass media as mechanism for domination and ideological manipulation rather than as a means of liberation and empowerment.' Instead, development projects must promote dialogued, cultivate critical thinking, and stimulate self-reflexive action.

In more recent period thus emerged understanding of importance of participatory approach to development communication.

Participatory approaches proved to be invaluable for creating development messages that were culturally relevant and appropriate within a specific social setting. By incorporating indigenous knowledge and traditions into development projects, better understanding between development workers and local communities has been achieved. Also: Participatory communication provides local communities with a sense of agency and ownership of development projects. Participatory communication raises the community's awareness of its own resources and talents, likewise its ability to change at least some aspects of daily life.

Community media, which I have already written about, have as its integral part community participation and in a number of cases proved very useful sources not only of communication but of community building and strengthening.

There are some more recently published texts about media and development I would like to recommend:
- Media and development: Finding the most effective pathway, Mark Nelson
- Will media get a seat at the development table?
- Democratising the airwaves

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I wish you a Happy New Year rich in fruitful, empowering and rewarding communication!

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