How to Use Strategic Communication on Development Objectives as a Tool for Peacebuilding
Oscar Bloh
Publication Date
Publication Date: 
January 1, 2010

Published by Radio for Peacebuilding Africa, a project of Search for Common Ground, this guide is designed for trainers of media workers and government officials in strategic communication related to major development objectives. The training guide has the following objectives:

  • to improve the skills of policy makers and media practitioners, with a particular emphasis on radio, in the effective communication of major government reform policies to citizens; and
  • to increase the skills of policy makers and media practitioners in generating information (concerns, needs, etc.) from citizens, and in communicating those needs to the government.

According to the editor's Introduction: "In this model strategic communication becomes a key component of the development process, meaning that communication is a dialogue, from the government to the people and from the people to government (vertical communication), as well as allowing for communication across society from one community to another (horizontal communication). Thus, it is a holistic approach to communication creating an open space for dialogue on a number of different levels and between diverse individuals and groups."

Three distinct, interrelated learning objectives inform the framework of the training. By the end of the training, participants should appreciate the value of communications in reaching development policy objectives and promoting good governance. Participants should also be able to state the different components of effective strategic communication and explain the difference between information dissemination and strategic communication. In addition, they should be able to produce media products on major policies and demonstrate the integration of a "common ground approach" in all their media products.

The guide is divided into seven sessions:

  • Session 1: Understanding conflict and its roots
  • Session 2: Media and conflict transformation
  • Session 3: Governance reform systems and processes
  • Session 4: Understanding strategic communication
  • Session 5: Access to public information
  • Session 6: Radio as a driver of change
  • Session 7: Designing media products for radio to assist governance reform policies

This guide uses adult learning principles of: self-direction; participation; experiential learning that fills a need; time for reflection and feedback; and an environment of respect and safety for knowledge exchange. It supports the following principles related to conflict:

  1. "Perception is the way we view and interpret the world and reality, and is based on our values and experiences
  2. Conflict is neutral and occurs between two or more parties whose values, interests and goals are perceived as incompatible
  3. Violence is marked by attitudes and behaviour which cause physical and psychological harm to an individual or group
  4. An individual or community cannot avoid conflict, but can prevent it from erupting into violence
  5. The root causes of conflict are grouped around; Access to resources, Social exclusion, Identity, and the Lack of effective communication."



The document describes how violence that is physical, cultural, and structural, can be addressed by the media, based upon these points, among others:

  • "The media is a platform for mainstreaming diverse voices during a conflict
  • The media needs to look beyond the violence and to highlight some of the initiatives to end the violence.
  • The media needs to move beyond the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) and one H (How) to include an S for Solution in its reporting. The solution needs to be that of the disputants and not of the interviewer or the media.
  • Conventional media tends to focus on issues that divide parties in a conflict while Common Ground media focuses on the commonalities without necessarily ignoring the differences.
  • The media serves as a platform for promoting good governance by holding public officials accountable for their actions."

The training guide distinguishes media by type: peace media, focusing on peace activism and damage from war/conflict; common ground media, focusing on roots of conflict and exploring long-term solutions based on commonalities of parities in conflict; conventional media, focusing on neutral reporting of events; positional media, using the voice of one party to defend a position; and hate media, used to instigate and exacerbate conflict. It enumerates points in the government reform process and describes the use of strategic communication to:

  1. facilitate the flow of information from the governed to the government;
  2. enable citizens to make demands on government to make it accountable for change;
  3. manage citizens' expectations for a peace dividend, and increases trust in state institutions charged with reform agendas;
  4. increase citizens' ownership of the reform process;
  5. shift citizens' attitudes and behaviour towards involvement in the governance process;
  6. facilitate dialogue across communities;
  7. help disseminate the right messages through the right channels to the right places and people at the right time; and
  8. focus messages on increasing knowledge, providing skills, and changing attitudes and behaviour

and includes: "Identifying the change you want to effect, who the audience(s) is, what the message is, the best channel to communicate that message, and how to obtain feedback."



A discussion of media pluralism includes community radio, newspapers, television, and the internet, and it differentiates public relations from public information (particularly focused on transparency of government sources). Public information, as stated here, has the potential to increase citizens' confidence in the governance process and sets the basis for citizens to make demands on their leaders for better governance. The qualities of radio as a community resource include its reach and scope, its relevancy to local issues, its connection to rural communities and marginalised people, its catalytic potential for citizen involvement, and its diversity of formats - drama, features, phoning-in, round table moderation, magazine, skits, spot messages, etc. The guide states that successful media productions can:

  • "bring hidden stories to the attention of the public
  • play a role in democracy and peacebuilding, and so become the gatekeepers, setting the agenda and maintaining a balance of views
  • influence policy makers, particularly on how to communicate with citizens
  • manage expectations during transition and democratic processes
  • serve as bridge builders promoting positive relationships among communities."

English, French

Number of Pages: 



Emails from Francis Rolt and Clara Knausenberger to The Communication Initiative on March 26 2010 and October 21 2010, respectively; and the Radio for Peacebuilding Africa website on April 7 2010.