Originally posted on the BBC Media Action Insight blog by Melanie Archer, Digital Editor, BBC Media Action, December 23 2016 - Our most popular blogs of the year, featuring: discussion of alternatives to counter-propaganda, tips for successful health communication and recommendations of both development films to watch and Twitter accounts to follow.

It’s been a busy first few months for the Insight blog. Since our launch at the end of June, we’ve covered a diverse array of topics, from AIDS and the challenges of conducting research in South Sudan, to Zika and what it’s like to interview refugees as someone who fled from Syria.

We’ve summarised key finding of our reports on political participation, broadcasting in humanitarian emergencies and media in Nepal, as well as giving a behind-the-scenes look at our randomised control trial on the impact of our health work in Bangladesh, which pushed the envelope in generating media development evidence.

With an eye on what the wider international development sector’s been up to, we’ve responded to the World Development Report and marked International Human Rights Day with reflections on the role of drama in combatting violence against women. It’s also been fantastic to have featured guest blogs by experts from the World Health Organization and the Global Network for Disaster Reduction – and we hope to have many more contributions next year (email us if you’re interested). 

So as we reflect on 2016, here are our five most popular blogs of the year:  

Who to follow on Twitter if you’re interested in international development, media and communication

To help reboot your Twitter timeline, we recommended some international development accounts – focusing on governance, health and humanitarian affairs – that are well worth following. We aimed to feature a variety of voices from across the great expanse of the Twittersphere, and included some familiar handles while introducing to some new faces who should definitely be on your radar.

Are there alternatives to counter-propaganda in an information age?

The effectiveness of IS’s international communication machine, along with that of other extremist groups, has prompted increasingly urgent attempts at crafting effective information responses by policy makers around the world.

Reflecting on these efforts, James Deane and Will Taylor expressed their concern that investing in ‘counter-narratives’ – what some would term counter-propaganda – is not always supported by good evidence. And yet it is here where increasing resources are being focused sometimes, they feared, at the expense of other efforts designed to support free and independent media and other information efforts that might be more effective at reducing violent extremism.

Five tips for success in health communication

Caroline Sugg summarised five recommendations for accelerating progress in global health communication from our panel event looking at what makes  excellent health communication, how to fund it and – most crucially – why it should be at the centre of public health work.

Panellists stressed the importance of empathy and community engagement, the need to go ‘beyond messaging’ in communication efforts and invest in evidence and the imperative to prioritise local ownership

For more on this topic,  read Caroline Sugg’s Coming of Age: communication’s role in powering global health paper.

Film for development

Films in the international development sector are often associated with fundraising but they can also serve as a form of aid in themselves. Films can help mothers manage a pregnancy, assist refugees as they navigate life in an unfamiliar country and influence perceptions of what politicians can achieve.

We selected five examples of ‘film aid’, including a drama series for teenagers aimed at tackling risky sexual behaviour, a skit to warn refugees about scammers and Nepal’s version of The West Wing.

Community engagement and sexuality education in conservative contexts: the case of Pakistan

The World Health Organization’s Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli and Marina Plesons looked at how two education programmes used community engagement to promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health in Pakistan. Their guest blog examined how Aahung and Rutgers WPF – a Pakistani and Dutch organisation respectively – have adapted to local culture and worked with the media to respond to backlash to their sensitive work.


That’s all from the Insight blog for 2016. Looking ahead to next year, BBC Media Action will launch its new data portal. We’re also due to publish blogs on conducting research in Syria, shifting social norms in Ethiopia and accountability in Somaliland so watch this space!               

Melanie Archer is Digital Editor of the Media Action Insight blog; she tweets as @MelanieBArcher


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