Biodiversity Project website on September 17 2007 and January 9 2009.
This initiative draws on an entertaining use of information and communication technology (ICT) to educate students and activists about global justice issues. Visitors to Global Justice Game website may learn about the game and access all of the materials for running the game free of charge (but the latter access level requires passwords, which can be obtained by communicating with the organiser via email; please see below). Key to this process is the request that those who use the free game reciprocate for its use by providing systematic feedback including a report of what happened, and participant and coordinator evaluations.
The game is envisioned to be part of a larger, participatory process. In the first phase, participants meet with members from their own teams (groups numbering approximately 12 persons) to discuss strategy. In the "Meeting and Negotiation" phase, participants talk with other team members and try to influence events to their advantage. The third phase involves collaborative decisions about what actions to take for the team. In Phase IV, each team presents a press release with details about its decisions. Finally, media teams present their own perspective of the game's events. In addition, after each case, coordinators facilitate discussion to help participants understand how the game model reflects the operation of the global economy.
Here is a summary of the game scenarios that are at the centre of this process (additional detail on each one is available by clicking here):
- Factory Fire in Fabrikistan - In this (fictional) country in Southeast Asia, 211 people die in fire in an apparel factory used to produce goods for (the fictional) Chic Duds International (CDI). In the wake of the fire, global justice teams explore options to improve factory conditions, and CDI tries to maintain investor confidence, while Fabrikistan is caught in a debt crisis...
- Selling Green in Fabrikistan - In this scenario, CDI has proposed to build a destination resort and theme park in Fabrikistan to promote eco-tourism. The Fabrikistan Islamic Jihad has made terrorist threats against the park and its attractions, prompting the government of Fabrikistan to seek US military aid Fabrikistan has also applied for a World Bank micro-financing loan to promote small business development and train citizens, especially women, through a CDI programme connected to the theme park...
- Biopiracy in Plantanoguay - In this (fictional) country in South America, the government has started a producers' cooperative among the indigenous Azmaya to grow and distribute kahote, a medicinal plant unique to the region. The United States government has filed various complaints, such as that this farming violates intellectual property rights, a label used by worker cooperatives violates labeling rules, and a Plantanoguay law banning advertising claims that an infant formula is more healthful than breast milk violates free trade rules...
- Cancer Alley - In this scenario, HAZMAT (a fictional private investor/company that is the largest private investor in Banglabush, a fictional country) has applied for a permit to build an uranium enrichment plant and a waste-disposal plant among the predominantly African-American communities living in "Cancer Alley", an industrial corridor running 85 miles along the length of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. After the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency denied HAZMAT-needed permits to proceed, the company is suing the U.S. government...
- Race to the Bottom - In this scenario, recent changes in European Union banana tariffs intended to favour former colonies may squeeze socially conscious Poquita Banana (with plantations in Plantanoguay) out of the industry and threaten workers' rights across the globe...
- Strip-mining Banglabush - In this scenario, the (fictional) country of Banglabush in central Africa is bankrupt and unable to make its loan payments. It has applied for debt forgiveness. HAZMAT is proposing a joint project with the government to strip-mine uranium. The mining operation would displace an indigenous people and destroy their sacred burial ground. A loan application to the World Bank to finance the project is pending...In addition, the government-run water company was recently sold to HAZMAT, which has tripled the price of water...
- Making a Better World - In this scenario, a large private foundation is financing a conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to agree on specific plans for changing or replacing the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) with alternatives. Participants will include both governments from the global South and transnational non-governmental organisations (NGOs); more than a dozen concrete proposals are on the table, and the participants must decide which ones to pursue and recommend....
Email from Bill Gamson to The Communication Initiative on August 13 2007; and Global Justice Game website.
IFRP is fundamentally oriented around the use of research to explore and improve the relationship between a woman and a counsellor - an intensive form of one-on-one communication which can shape attitudes and behaviour with regard to both children's health and women's identities. A fundamental principle behind this process is that research participants are "the custodians of their own transformation while the researchers have the responsibility to guide the change processes implied in the research participants' desires for bettering their situations."
To begin, IFRP carried out an exploratory, ethnographic research phase which focused primarily on pregnant women and mothers with infants of up to one year old, in 11 sites: 8 in South Africa, 1 in Swaziland, and 2 in Namibia. The purpose was to explore infant feeding practices in communities most at risk through poverty and HIV in the context of customs, thoughts, tradition and the emotions they evoke, the circumstances that influence them, and the counselling strategies that might affect them. Overall, the study revealed that mothers' and counsellors' understandings of the encounter differed so greatly in terms of perceived purpose, benefits, risks, and nutritional logic that it caused a rift in the communication. Researchers found that, in order to achieve success - which, for the health service, is framed as persuading mothers to test for HIV, and to disclose the result - counsellors often felt compelled to be prescriptive and authoritative, reverting at times to confronting, judging, and shaming mothers. Many encounters were found to be confrontational, thereby de-motivating the mothers and frustrating the counsellors. (Click here for more information in the article "Demotivating infant feeding counselling encounters in southern Africa: Do counsellors need more or different training?" published in AIDS Care, Volume 20, Issue 3, March 2008, pps. 337-345.) Yet, researchers find, in order to adhere to their feeding choice consistently, mothers need to be motivated towards the significant behaviour change that disclosure implies: to change their traditional roles and identities, as women. (Click here for more information in the article "Infant feeding practices: Realities and mind sets of mothers in southern Africa," published in AIDS Care, Volume 19, Issue 9, October 2007, pps. 1101-1109.)
In response to these findings, from 2005-2006 IFRP conducted action research focused on training and supporting the counsellors in 4 sites in the same 3 countries. Phase 2 was designed to focus on the positive potential of the woman and counsellor relationship to motivate clients that need to make risky or difficult changes (transforming lifestyle, identity, or entrenched behaviours), while developing a model that was more coherent with women's need for professional guidance. This phase involved testing alternative methodologies and approaches, including:
- Brief Motivational Interviewing (BMI), a form of counselling developed to motivate clients to own and transform their own behaviour. Whereas typical counselling might leap straight to advice giving, exploring options, and problem-solving, BMI is more focused on facilitating change in a mother's own life through an attitude of compassionate detachment and respect for the client's choice, and a belief that the client has the capacity and motivation for change but may need guidance to reveal or manifest these. Training carried out as part of this approach involved helping counsellors foster a climate of collaboration, dialogue, and respect during the encounter, as well as to respect healthy and appropriate boundary management and maintain healthy levels of self-care. (That is, the goal is to ensure that counsellors do not define the value of their own efforts and thus their self-worth on the basis of the women's adherence to the prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) message - and they do not judge the woman's value on the same basis, either).
- Women-Centeredness (WC) is an approach of self-awareness, self-regard, and mutual respect designed to counter the internalised female sexism found amongst both mothers and counsellors in the first phase of this research. That is, interventions and research actions recognise women within their own context (a patriarchical one), and thus are designed to not contribute to the underlying problem of women not perceiving themselves as able to "save their babies". (Researchers claim that many traditional "gender-informed" or "gender-sensitive" interventions inadvertently cast women in a position of victim, which diminishes their self-efficacy). The idea is that internalised sexism within both mother and counsellor, and also within their relationship, can undermine the encounter at a subconscious level - IFRP recognises this dynamic and aims to shift it. IFRP also works to ensure that messages such as those ones pertaining to practical ways of exclusive breast feeding are both grounded in evidence and practically appropriate to the local conditions.
- Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a form of action research that recognises that inquiry (research) and change (action) often happen in the same moment: the question is itself an intervention for change. Traditionally, the researchers explain, research questions are critical and analytical, focusing on the problems, gaps, and deficiencies in a situation. AI reframes the inquiry to focus on the successes, support, capacity, and potential to envision a new reality. Drawing on this model, after initial trainings researchers facilitated the counsellor's learning within AI groups at each site, while they themselves were learning to be trainers of counsellors in these approaches. The main purpose of this methodology is to understand the processes of (behaviour) change involved for mothers (and their families and communities), counsellors (and their colleagues and supervisors), and counsellor-trainers (the action researchers).
- Outcome Mapping (OM) focuses on how programmes facilitate change rather than how they control or cause change - This process involves other potential partner individuals and institutions as equals, and monitors change by "mapping" the mutual influence each partner has on the behaviour, relationships, activities, or actions of the "boundary" partners closest to it.
In Phase 3, IFRP plans to extend the research as well as deepen the understanding of the role female gender dynamics are playing in HIV/AIDS counselling.
HIV/AIDS, Children, Nutrition, Women, Gender.
The researchers explain that, in Southern Africa, HIV rates among mothers varies between 15% and 40%, and that gains in preventing MTCT before birth are commonly reversed by transmission after birth. While exclusive-feeding and anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment both hold great promise, findings from the first phase of the research indicated that mixed-feeding remains standard practice despite programmes to prevent MTCT. This practice of adding water, solids, formula, and/or herbal treatment to breastmilk carries the highest risk of HIV transmission in low-resource settings. The IFRP second phase piloted action research to reflect on counsellor-mother communication so as to better motivate clients towards exclusive rather than mixed infant feeding. (See the Related Summary, below.)
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Secure The Future.
Emails from Alan Jaffe to The Communication Initiative on September 2 2007, October 26 2007, and October 30 2007; and IFRP website.
London School of Economics
Bytes for all Readers listerv on July 29 2007; and Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, São Paulo, Brazil, May 2007.
Water and Sanitation Program
E-mail from Jason Cardosi to The Communication Initiative on July 16 2007.
This effort to change World Bank policies relies on the strategies of collaboration and participation for advocacy. Organised by a large civil society network (76 NGOs, as of this writing), the campaign involves asking citizens to participate in democracy and governance.
In order to educate them about the issues prior to engaging in advocacy, the coalition members (described as having "fundamental concerns about the way the Bank operates") have set up an interactive website. It provides access to the campaign declaration, titled "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: A Challenge to European Governments to Leverage Reform at the World Bank", as well as the signatory list, and further details - many of which are offered in multiple languages. The site also features analsysis (a selection of recent reports and studies on economic policy conditions and energy lending, plus links with longer listings to explore) and a series of case studies. Online videos exploring environmental and economic issues in more depth - with titles such as "Dirty Aid, Dirty Water", "The Big Sell Out", and "Pumping Poverty" - are also available for viewing here.
Having been thus oriented to the campaign, European citizens are asked to cast their vote online to tell their development minister to, in essence, consider "redirecting funding away from the Bank through other mechanisms which respect country ownership and take the necessary leadership in addressing climate change." Specifically, by visiting a dedicated "VOTE NOW!" page on the Campaign website, citizens may submit an online email form that will be sent to their Development Minister. The "vote" itself is a strategically framed term, since it involves asking the Minister in question the following: "What's your choice? Yes, I want my government to ensure that development aid is spent in the interests of the world's most impoverished people" or "No, my government should spend development money in the interest of multinational companies and should not be too worried about climate change." Those who wish to get even further involved are provided, on the website, with various campaign materials (e.g., a postcard, flyer, logo) in several languages so that they might create a ballot box to take to big meetings or festivals.
Along those lines, in addition to using ICTs for advocacy, the coalition is organising a number of public events. For example, a stunt was organised in Paris, France in March 2007 in front of the Ministry of Finance. A large cheque was displayed to ask European governments to make their contributions to the International Development Association (IDA) contingent on further change on the World Bank's use of economic policy conditionality and financing of fossil fuel energy projects. The live voting action of the campaign was launched with a mobile ballot box at the Alternative G8 Summit in June 2007. Then, in August of that year, Eurodad and Comité pour l'annulation de la dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM) took the campaign to the World Music Festival 'Esperanza' at Abbaye de Floreffe in Belgium. Representatives from these 2 coalition members talked to approximately 600 people about World Bank policies; all of those in attendance then cast their vote in the ballot box.
Development Assistance, Economic Development.
The Campaign describes the World Bank as follows: "the world's largest multilateral development bank and one of the most powerful international organisations, providing financing and promoting policy paths which affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the developing world. The official main goal of the institution is to reduce poverty world wide." Members of the coalition have said that the World Bank is "criticised more strongly than ever by donor and borrower governments as well as civil society organisations and local communities for increasing rather than reducing poverty by imposing harmful economic policy conditions; for environmental devastation; for contributing to conflict; and for failing to respect local peoples' rights. Evidence of harm from the ground has been corroborated by a series of official reviews of the Bank's activities."
Email from Juliane Westphal to The Communication Initiative on August 29 2007; and World Bank Campaign - Europe website.
The Mobile School programme involves young volunteers from around the world working with local teachers to bring education directly to children who might not otherwise have access. The strategy involves using simple and creative means to reach children who are not served by a school system, helping them with the goal of getting them to enter into the public educational system. The programme also seeks to educate children who are already in school, reinforcing what they learn through their traditional education.
The "device" itself consists of 5 interconnected boxes on wheels. These boxes slide in and out of each other and provide for a constantly changing and transportable classroom. When fully extended, the boxes can accommodate a variety of fun and educational exercise cards. The cards vary in level of difficulty and contain a broad range of educational material. The core themes are literacy, mathematics, creative therapy, healthcare education, and human rights. Other themes may be created, such as clean water conservation and waste/pollution awareness, depending on the specific children's needs.
Strategies for teaching the children are also context-specific. One volunteer indicates that "First we begin with some physical games, to get them [the children] at least as exhausted as we are, so that they can concentrate on the school afterwards. We realized quickly that there is not only one way to work with the kids. It's interesting to see the different needs of every child and the different ways of how to work with every single pupil. On one hand, for example, you are working with only one child - nine years old, not able to count to ten - it takes about 30 minutes to teach the numbers. And on the other hand you can be involved with four kids concentrating on a mathematics competition. It's not that only the kids are getting taught, even for us there is something new every time. Every single week it is a new challenge for us trying to teach in different ways; to catch the different needs of every single child with his or her special personality and the actual mood of the day..."
PVF explains that Santa Elena's school systems are overpopulated, which keeps them from reaching their full potential of quality education. As a result, children have little motivation to continue attendance, and many children drop out at a very early age. Further out of the town limits are the indigenous communities, which are served by school systems with fewer resources and which do not rely on the common teaching material of the national educational systems. This can create a population of children and adolescents who are disenfranchised from their peers. Finally, children living in zones of economically poor and landless families on the outskirts of town may lack electricity, running water, and sewage services; the children who live there are often not served by an education system.
PVF is a grassroots NGO funded entirely by financial donations made by volunteers, and run exclusively by long- and short-term volunteers. The organisation seeks to promote community empowerment by providing recreational opportunities in humanitarian, educational, and environmental fields, while valuing local knowledge and working with cultural sensitivity. This work involves facilitating the psychological, emotional, physical, cultural, social, and vocational development of children and adolescents, with the goal of allowing them to develop their potential and improve their own lives.
This initiative is premised on the conviction that photography can be a way for children to express themselves in order to heal from trauma. Organisers believe that this art form is a particularly appropriate strategy for children in the developing world, since words are not always adequate to express their own perspectives or describe the lives of those around them who have been marginalised. UNICEF believes that children's photographs provide clues to their interests, concerns, and identities. "Through our pictures, we want to show the world what it's really like here in Kashmir right now," said one 13-year-old student. "By taking pictures," added her classmate, "we can tell people about all our problems, and we have a lot of problems right now."
Interpersonal, participatory encounters were developed to build the capacity of the participating children to express themselves through photographs. More than 160 young people throughout the quake-affected districts of Mansehra and Muzaffarabad learned the art of digital photography at a series of workshops organised by UNICEF, with support from the Government of Pakistan's Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. The 4-day photography training, which featured interactive play activities, presented the children with an outlet to communicate their experiences and to identify some of their communities' most urgent needs.
Following this process, participants in the Eye See II project took more than 30,000 pictures. "We need shelter, food and water," said Zubair, 8, whose self-portrait was among the group of 35 photos selected by professional photographers for an exhibition which opened in October 2006 at UNICEF's New York headquarters and in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster. Twenty-one children from areas that were hard-hit by the earthquake attended the Islamabad event, where they met Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, who toured the exhibit as part of the earthquake anniversary observance. The Eye See II exhibition was scheduled to go on to London, Tokyo, and Rome.
Along these lines, advocacy is a key component of this initiative. Armed with their photographs - a photo essay, including samples, may be viewed by clicking here - the young photographers asked for changes such as the rebuilding of homes and schools, the creation of paved roads, and the fostering of easier access to services so that their mothers don't have to spend time and effort fetching fuel and water. The children's viewpoints will be shared with the government, which has pledged to incorporate them into reconstruction plans.
Children, Risk Management, Rights.
RIU's underlying strategy is an "innovation systems approach" which highlights the importance of networks, coalitions, and partnerships, and - by extension - the need for effective communication channels among the organisations and individuals that make up the system. This process moves away from the traditional, linear research and development (R&D) model, in which research is completed and the results are then passed on to end users through some form of extension service. Instead, users and suppliers of knowledge interact from the outset to ensure that innovation takes place. The emphasis is on nurturing the demand for knowledge and technologies not just among primary producers but among a range of actors, including equipment manufacturers and suppliers, product and service retailers, traders and processors, financial institutions, private companies and entrepreneurs, government policy bodies and non-government organisations (NGOs). This theme of partnership is also reflected in the RIU programme's efforts to work effectively with national, regional, and international partners, and to promote the key lessons from the RIU to those who make and implement pro-poor policies.
The importance of participation in this platform is illustrated by RIU's endeavour to support the uptake of technologies by strengthening demand for them among the economically poor. This role will be taken on by "national innovation coalitions", which are composed of organisations already involved in renewable natural resources (RNR) innovation. In the first year of implementation, the RIU organised in-person workshops to validate the coalition approach, which also draws on public-private partnerships and their role in stimulating entrepreneurship. Through its investments, RIU will aim to build up a portfolio of private-sector partnerships in the agricultural sector of the developing world.
A key RIU strategic focus is on learning more about why NR research has not been used, why it is not more useful, and how a focus on use can speed up adoption and spread the benefits for the economically poor. Impact evaluation is another core emphasis; organisers claim that there is limited available evidence of the impact on poverty of past RNR research programmes. Monitoring and learning will take place across all RIU initiatives, with a strong focus on participatory monitoring and evaluation (though final authorship of evaluation studies will rest with independent experts). Evaluation-sharing activities will identify and engage with influential evaluation stakeholders at national, regional, and international levels. This reflects a belief that advocacy is necessary to move research into use; this is, according to RIU, "all about changing attitudes and behaviour, not only those of potential technical innovators such as farmers, but also those of policy makers and other influential people."
Participatory modes again come into play in the evaluation-sharing component of RIU, in the sense that "conventional approaches to communication, knowledge management and learning within structured organizations and well-defined audiences are of limited value here. Rather, communication has to support alliances and networks within a dynamic and sometimes chaotic innovation system." Thus, the RIU works with its in-country partners to identify local communication gaps and opportunities, such as the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and drama and other cultural events. Part of this process involves mapping exercises that are designed to determine which segments of the community have a voice, which trusted institutions can articulate local people's needs, and whether other groups or individuals (e.g., shopkeepers) could serve as conduits of technical and other information. The intention is to determine how well economically poor farmers communicate with these "infomediaries", and to test the potential of communication tools for strengthening the voices of the vulnerable during innovation.
The RIU website is a tool for anyone around the world interested in NR research. It includes an RIU Library featuring communications materials in many forms - from the written word in the form of reports, policy briefs, feature articles, and newsletters, to radio broadcasts, videos, photographs, and more. The Databases in the Information Bank include "Natural Resources Knowledge", which features 278 research outputs or clusters of outputs relevant to livestock, aquaculture, fisheries, post-harvest operations, crop protection, crop post-harvest operations, forestry, food microbiology, soil fertility, land use management, and water resource management. (It is also available on a CD, accompanied by a book designed for field practitioners and policy makers.) Still in development as of this writing, the "Capacity Strengthening Providers" database will provide a listing of individuals and organisations providing capacity development services in agriculture. This website also features a variety of useful links organised by category, and an interactive discussion forum.
Natural Resource Management.
Launched under DFID's new Strategy for Research on Sustainable Agriculture (SRSA), this initiative marks a shift in emphasis away from the generation of new knowledge to the ways in which knowledge is put to use. RIU's inception phase ran from July 1 2006 to June 30 2007; full implementation will run from July 1 2007 to June 30 2011.
The RIU programme is funded by DFID, and managed by Natural Resources (NR) International in the UK, Nkoola Institutional Development Associates (NIDA) in Uganda, and Michael Flint (and the Performance Assessment Resource Centre), also in the UK.
Email from Anton Immink to The Communication Initiative on July 27 2007; and RIU website.
World Wildlife Fund Nepal Program
Education for a Sustainable Future website on August 13 2007.
Soul Beat Africa