Options for the development of a mechanism to advance the scale and effectiveness of communication and media for development, social and behaviour change strategies and action related to local, national, regional, and international development priorities

Autor: 
Rafael Obregon
Fecha de Publicación
Mayo 26, 2017
Afiliación: 

UNICEF (Obregon); The Communication Initiative (Feek)

Below is part of an overall paper called "Development Calling", which is the primary paper for consideration at the all-interested-parties meeting to be hosted by UNICEF on June 27th and 28th, 2017 in New York. The full Table of Contents is here.

What should be the specific problems on which this field is seeking to make substantive progress through any mechanism that is developed? Please note that the following are not in any priority order and though these are presented as discrete options, it is possible that elements of different options could be combined for a different approach to the ones presented.

Problem Option 1: Programming standards

Problem to solve: The lack of agreed-upon standards for communication and media (and/for) development, and social and behaviour change programme initiatives.

This is based on the perception and analysis that the absence of such standards results in a wide variety in the quality of the work being undertaken undertaken but in the struggle to speak in a shared language about this area of work. With such a wide spectrum of quality, there is a lessened likelihood of impact. The best initiatives are then associated with poorer-quality “interventions” - from message development to dialogue facilitation, from quality media standards to public campaigns - that undermine the understood and appreciated added value of all communication and media and social and behaviour change thinking and action.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals:

➢    Within 2 years, 500 organisations and relevant government units commit to a common set of quality standards for those elements of their work.

➢    Within 5 years, 250 organisations and relevant government units have received an external assessment of the quality of their work gauged against the agreed-upon quality standards.

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    Bring together a working group to develop the standards criteria.
b.    Broker a negotiation process to come to an agreement and ensure wide consensus across this field of work related to the standards criteria developed.
c.    Train people in the application of the standards.
d.    Undertake an overall audit of the quality standards across a cross-section of the action focused on communication and media (and/for) development and social and behaviour change programmes.
e.    Provide guidance for communities and peoples being engaged, boards and other decision-making forums, funders, technical experts, external and internal evaluators, media, etc. to assess the quality of the work with which they are involved.

Problem Option 2: Training standards

Problem to solve: Anyone can be a communication, media, social and behaviour change practitioner in the development context.

There is no core qualification required. Anyone can claim to work – and does work – on, for example, trust, equity, engagement, gender, voice, accountability, behaviours, social norms, people, and change. They can claim to have the skills and knowledge to so do. There are no qualification standards in place against which to assess a person’s skills, knowledge, and expertise as someone who can implement and advance a strategy and programme from these perspectives.

This problem is perceived to undermine the impact of our field of work. If this work is to be effective, the people involved need to receive guidance on required training standards and support for working towards those standards. There will of course be contextual reasons for additional, important national and local standards. Different standards could be applied to types of training: short-course, in-service, diploma, degree, and post-graduate, for example.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals:

➢    Within 2 years of the training standards being proposed, 200 training institutions (across the spectrum from short-course to post-graduate) have committed to work towards those standards, with appropriate national and local variations.

➢    At the conclusion of a 5-year period, 50% of a sample of people working in relevant roles have passed a course recognised as meeting training standards for this field of work.    

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    Work with a group of people undertaking trust, equity, engagement, gender, voice, and/or accountability or people and change programmes, strategies, and learning to develop a set of training standards.
b.    Broker a negotiation process with the wide range of institutions providing training to agree to a proposed set of standards.
c.    Undertake an overall audit of the training standards in a sample of the institutions providing such training.
d.    Provide guidance and support to training institutions in order that they can engage in quality standards review of their own training initiatives. 

Problem Option 3: Policy voice

Problem to solve: At the global level, it has been difficult for the communication for development, media (and/for) development, and social and behaviour change community to find a common and prominent voice that can influence local, national, regional, and global policies.

As a result, opportunities have been missed, such as recent global priority setting initiatives including the development of the SDGs, the refocusing of the World Bank, and the evolution of the Gates Foundation. This field of work also lacks a coherent and prominent voice with regard to significant ongoing development challenges such as the plateauing over the past 5 years of HIV/AIDS infection rates, questions about the most effective strategies to take advantage of mobile technology trends, the pressures on participative political processes, low immunisation rates in some places, the economic and social equity dialogue, and much more. 

The net result is that this field of work is often not a “player” in international development policymaking. This undermines or weakens the seriousness with which our policy analysis and strategic ideas can become components of local, national, regional, and international development policies and strategies, with the consequent negative effect on everything from funding possibilities to participating at policymaking “tables”.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals:

➢    Within 2 years, there is a 50% rise in both: our perspectives and ideas being included in major policy documents; and our people being at the table for those policymaking processes.

➢    At the conclusion of a 5-year period, it is possible to assess that our perspectives have had a major influence on important international development strategy development.

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    Developing and publishing a major annual critique of development (or a particular aspect of development) from a communication and media (and/for) development and social and behaviour change perspective and analysis.
b.    Undertaking a coordination process (using established and ongoing networks, for example) to agree on the spokesperson(s) for this field of work on a particular issue.
c.    Forming and supporting interest groups (small groups of interested people and organisations) to pursue particular policy areas – for example, a group to focus on any reviews of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change should this be a priority policy concern.
d.    Designing a common branding process for the policy engagement work that would take place. As an example, when UNICEF released several years ago its “Structural Adjustment with a Human Face” paper, the “human face” became common branding for a number of policy processes that critiqued different elements of development. That phrase resonated, and resonance is a tricky communication “thing”. But the principle remains.

Problem Option 4: Credible and compelling evidence

Problem to solve: “Prove that you have impact.”

There are a number of different reasons why this issue proves problematic: The type of work this field engages in does not lend itself easily to short-range evaluation or to evaluations that meet biomedical standards (although several RCTs on communication and media interventions have been undertaken in the past few years). The most commonly credible research methodologies are extremely difficult if not impossible to apply or require substantive funds. Though there is a lot of evidence, this field of work has never come to a consensus on which evidence is most compelling. The field has been inconsistent and lacking focus related to research. Consequently, there are lots of different studies in different forums. This waters down any impact.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals:

➢    Within 2 years, to have general consensus across this field of work on the 30 most compelling and credible pieces of impact data.

➢    At the conclusion of a 5-year period, to be able to cite 100 instances of at least one of those pieces of data being included in local, national, regional, or international development policy and strategy papers.

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    For each element of, for example, people and change, trust, equity, engagement, gender, voice, and accountability, identify the main credible and substantive research “pieces” with significant impact outcomes – positive or negative.
b.    Develop packages of that research and evaluation data relative to specific groups, organisations, communities of interest, and other development actors to engage with around the agreed-upon data. For example, there may be one package for local communities in order that conversations can take place concerning the demonstrated value of this work. Moving across the spectrum, another package could be for the 50 largest funders of development action in order to facilitate conversations with that important group of stakeholders. The same could apply for others – governments, bilaterals, technical experts in other fields, leaders of community and social movements, UN agencies, etc. Each would need a tailored product.

Problem Option 5: Funding levels

Problem to solve: Raise the substantial additional funds required for this field of work

It is no surprise that funding issues were very prominent in the in-person consultations, receiving the highest percentages in the online survey. There is a strong perception, perhaps even a norm within our field of work, that it is extremely difficult to raise the necessary funds to support the work that will make a very significant difference when it comes to working positively towards development goals. Within that overall area of concern, there is a specific worry about the flow of funds to Southern organisations, ones that have been initiated and have grown in the context in which they work and resonate strongly with those contexts. Data to back up this perception are difficult to identify. 

There seem to be a number of reasons for this situation. Many funders (not all) have a very narrow view of what the field of communication and media (and/for) development and social and behaviour change contributes – for example, demand generation for services. Funders appear to increasingly choose to place their resources with larger initiatives with whom they are (it seems) most comfortable. They also may prefer to provide a few large grants rather than lots of smaller grants. This reduces stress on their administration and increases the ease with which accountability can be implemented. Overall, this area of work is often regarded as being on the “soft” side of development. All of this limits its ability to demonstrate what it can really do. As a result, the communication, media, social and behaviour change strategies implemented in countries reflect an increasingly narrow view of what this field is all about.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals: 

➢    Within 2 years, engage 50 major global funders in order to highlight the analysis, strategy, track record, impact, future plans, and added value of your field of work.

➢    Within 5 years, see a 50% increase in funding from the 30 largest global funders.

➢     Ensure that 50% of these funds flow directly to Southern initiated, developed, and fully managed organisations.

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    Form a formal alliance of major Northern and Southern agencies to guide the work of a secretariat.
b.    Create a common “bucket” into which funders can place funds. This could be based on a mechanism such as GAVI.
c.    Develop a set of criteria for the allocation of those funds and manage that mechanism.

Problem Option 6: Civil society engagement

Problem to Solve: From the perspective of the major development organisations, the overall development process has struggled to incorporate civil society organisations and perspectives in its consultation and decision-making processes.

This is understandable. Bilateral aid agencies and the UN system are by their very nature inter-governmental, as are a number of other multilateral organisations such as the OECD, European Union, and regional development banks. Governments are the key and prime decision-makers within their boundaries. For that reason, many other organisations such as major foundations and global NGOs often seek to develop good government relationships.

As the world, including the nature of government, changes, there is an increasing presence of civil society actors as advocates for policy positions and resource allocation, deliverers of services, convenors for community organisation, promoters of key messages, organisers and consumers of media, conduits for the relationship between government and people, and many other crucial roles.

The communication, media, social and behaviour change field is extremely well connected to these civil society processes. Far and away the largest growth in action by this field has been civil society processes in economically poor countries. Three of the top 6 opportunities identified were: Rising importance of the voices of the people with whom you work; Growing levels of engagement by the people with whom you work; and Proliferation of citizens’ voices.

The UN Forum on Indigenous Issues and its equivalent on People with Disabilities (now a convention) provide working examples.

Goals: This could lead to the following goals:

➢    Within 2 years, to create 3 spaces at the highest levels in the UN system and in 5 national settings to systematically listen to community voices and perspectives.

➢    Within 5 years, to be able to demonstrate 20 examples of the significant contribution of communication, media, social and behaviour change civil society processes to regional and global decision-making.

Strategies: Some possible strategies to reach those goals could include (these are exemplary only at this stage):

a.    Monitoring and noting the major decision-making process that will take place – coming up, for example, are likely reviews of progress against the SDGs, World Bank reviews of poverty strategies, assessments of HIV/AIDS progress, and many more.
b.    Identifying Southern organisations and networks (and specific people within) who are interested and available to provide input into regional and global development decision-making forums.
c.    Providing them with relevant briefings and documents related to future regional and global decision-making events.
d.    Brokering access and engagement for relevant Southern organisations and networks into the decision-making and review processes.
e.    Developing and publishing a series of policy documents highlighting Southern communication, media, social and behavioural change perspectives, analyses, and ideas on selected priority issues, for example related to poverty, gender, HIV/AIDS, child mortality, or the environment.    

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There is a critical dialogue focused on this paper at this link: Draft Paper: Global Mechanism - Comments and critique please

The next section in this paper is The Options - Operating Mechanisms.

The previous section in this paper is Worries, Opportunities, Priorities, and Core Question.

Editor's note: Above is an excerpt from Rafael Obregon's and Warren Feek's 18-page paper "Development Calling".

The full table of contents for this paper follows:

Introduction, Purpose, Stimulus, Consultation

Worries, Opportunities, Priorities, and Core Question

The Options - Specific Problems on Which to Focus

The Options - Operating Mechanisms

Structural and Funding Base - and Conclusion

Fuente: 

Image credit: Warren Feek