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Strategic Communication for Behaviour and Social Change in South Asia

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Executive Summary

"This working paper captures the essence of the 2004 Experts’ Consultation on Strategic Communication for Behaviour and Social Change in South Asia, held in New Delhi, India, 22 to 24 September 2004. The meeting, jointly organised by the UNICEF Regional Office for
South Asia (ROSA) and the UNICEF India office, was attended by over 70 participants,
including communication scholars and practitioners from the public and corporate sector,
UNICEF senior staff from South Asia, headquarters and other regional offices.

UNICEF, as an agency with a long tradition in development communication, utilizes an
array of communication approaches, ranging from policy advocacy, social and community
mobilisation, to interpersonal communication and much more. UNICEF espouses the new
development paradigm that advances results-oriented communication to support
development goals. This new thinking requires greater use of different communication
approaches and synergy among the various components of development programmes. It
necessitates that communication interventions are grounded in research and based on
sound documentation, monitoring, and evaluation. This paradigm stresses the importance
of reviewing planning, funding and management processes and staff functions within
UNICEF as critical steps in recasting communication to shape behaviours and contribute to
positive social change on a larger scale, so that more women and children in South Asia
would realize a better quality of life.

The consultation reviewed the latest concepts and approaches in communication for behaviour and social
change and clarified the role of strategic communication in South Asia. Communication scholars and
practitioners shared and debated their latest experiences and cutting-edge approaches in strategic

communication. An important step taken at the consultation was to give attention to the meaning of
research in communication planning, as well as the role played by monitoring and
evaluation in a results-based programming environment.

This working paper presents a synthesis of the latest experiences in applying various
communication approaches ranging from mass communication and entertainment
education, interpersonal communication, participatory development communication,
advocacy and social mobilisation that have been used in South Asia and elsewhere. It
showcases examples from HIV and AIDS prevention, care and support and in the promotion
of immunisation. The lessons learned in these two organisational priority areas provide
ample lessons in development communication that are relevant for related development
domains like child protection, education, and maternal and child health.

The paper suggests effective ways to plan communication programmes and presents
lessons learned from the private sector. By no means does it suggest that there is a
singular approach to strategic communication; rather, that strategic communication involves
a mix of appropriate multiple and synergistic communication approaches that can foster
individual and social change.

Communication programmes need to be responsive to peoples’ wants, needs and desires.
What’s more, communication programmes must be geared to stimulate social change in
more effective ways through careful communication research, analysis, planning,
coordination, implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation.

The crux of the consultation was vested in sessions where participants reflected and shared
their ideas on how to move the latest thinking into action. Implicit in this paradigm shift in
programming is the demand to transform the way communication programmes are planned,
managed and funded. For UNICEF to translate the latest evidence from strategic
communication into action, the consultation recommended that change is required in the
following areas:

  1. Planning of evidence and results-based communication programmes;
  2. Professionalizing communication functions;
  3. Modifying management and funding aspects;
  4. Building stronger partnerships and networks.

1. Planning of evidence-based and results-based communication
programmes

  • Recommendation # 1: Communication strategies work best when they are integrated with
    various strategies for behaviour change or behaviour development,
    social mobilisation, and advocacy aimed at achieving clearly
    identified objectives; and when they are linked to other programme
    elements and service provision.
  • Recommendation #2: Communication strategies need to extend beyond individuals and
    households to include service providers, traditional and religious
    leaders, and decision makers at different levels to engender
    systemic social change.
  • Recommendation #3: Research, monitoring and evaluation are essential, and ought to
    be part of any strategic communication plan.
  • Recommendation #4: Participatory communication methods yield results, if planned well
    and if they are responsive to people’s needs.
  • Recommendation #5: Entertainment-education (EE), currently an underused
    communication strategy in South Asia, has the potential to be
    more widely used. UNICEF should explore to expand the use of
    EE, building on the success of animation films in Africa and South
    Asia ( Sara and Meena). Past EE successes have the potential to
    be scaled up; results ought to be well researched and
    documented, and lessons learned widely shared.

2. Professionalizing communication functions and building capacity in
strategic communication

  • Recommendation #6: Recognise the need for increased specialisation and segmentation
    of roles in the field of communication when hiring staff and
    assigning tasks.
  • Recommendation #7: Train staff members and partners from government and NGOs on
    communication research and analysis, planning, managing,
    monitoring and evaluating communication programmes for
    behaviour and social change.
  • Recommendation #8: Form a Regional Task Force on Strategic Communication
    comprising of UNICEF ROSA, UNICEF India and Bangladesh, and
    selected Senior Programme Officers (SPOs). The task force ought
    to help coordinate management as well as operational strategic
    communication issues emanating from the outlined
    recommendations.
  • Recommendation #9: Develop a glossary of terms in strategic communication to
    establish a shared understanding (and use) of terminology,
    concepts and theories in communication for behaviour and social
    change.
  • Recommendation #10: Form an Advisory Panel of recognized communication experts as
    an extended technical arm to ROSA to help build capacity for strategic communication in South Asia.

3. Management and funding aspects

  • Recommendation #11: Integrate strategic communication as a measurable feature in
    annual work plans, multi-year programme plans and ensure that
    strategic communication is a distinctive aspect in UNICEF’s
    Master Plan of Operation (MPO). Where feasible, funds should be
    in a separate budget (and not part of sectoral programmes) to
    facilitate research, planning and programming of strategic
    communication activities.
  • Recommendation #12: Improve coordination of communication programmes within
    UNICEF and with government and other development partners at
    the onset of the programme planning phase.
  • Recommendation #13: Increase financial resources and effective resource planning to
    harness greater results from communication for behaviour and
    social change programmes.

  • Recommendation #14: Increase investments for formative and summative evaluation, and
    to feed these results more effectively into strategic communication
    outcomes.

4. Partnership building and networking

  • Recommendation #15: Create a regional forum on strategic communication for UNICEF
    staff, development partners and academia to share knowledge and improve applied strategic communication to

    foster behaviour and social change in South Asia.

  • Recommendation #16: Explore public-private partnerships to gain wider reach of
    communication programmes, to facilitate cross-sectoral learning
    and to leverage new resources for development programmes.

The above recommendations are wide ranging. Some recommendations are achievable in a
relatively short period of time, while others may take longer. However, organisational zeal
has to be at the core to buttress the management and planning of strategic communication
programmes for UNICEF-supported development programmes in South Asia. Ultimately,
well researched and planned strategic communication produces results by improving the
lives of children and women as documented by the various case studies and lessons
learned in this paper."

For copies of this 89-page report email: rosa@unicef.org

Source: 

Email from Ulrike Gilbert to The Communication Initiative on March 29 2005.

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