Author: Veena, February 1 2018 - Communication For Development (C4D) and External Communication are two distinct arms of Communication; however, often the stakeholders outside the two fields do not recognize the difference. This leads to a further state of confusion wherein, often times in my experience, the external Communication wing tends to crawl over the space of C4D work. The initiative of ‘Young reporters’ by UNICEF, being implemented in several countries of the world, including India, is a classic example. The initiative aims at empowering children through the capacity of reportage so that they identify the issues of local concern and raise these issues with Government. This is a community empowerment intervention and logically falls within the scope of C4D with technical support from external communication (reportage skill). However, in India, the initiative is led by the External Communication section of UNICEF.
Stakeholders as mentioned above further perpetuate this confusion when the critical role of C4D work is not understood by Government as it is overshadowed by the respective program sector wherein C4D is embedded. And since there is no direct accountability on bureaucrats with regard to C4D results as they aren’t specifically questioned by higher authorities on that, moreover it is effortful to do C4D because it takes time to show results which are beyond numbers. With this in the backdrop, the easier way to engage with Communications wing is the one which helps get Government visibility and popularity and that is the External Communications. By doing this, the stakeholder ticks the box showing focus on communication as part of program for example Routine Immunization, gets visibility and still stays away from getting into the long term business of C4D. It is complicated and I understand that I understand it reasonably well now after working in this sector for more than 6 years.
I have tried to understand the way to articulate the difference between C4D and External Communication to stakeholders - explained quite clearly in the diagram above:
In the above diagram, while it is clear that the role of allied subjects, such as Epidemiology, M&E, Environmental Science, and Anthropology, essentially contribute to C4D work in distinct ways, there is a fine line between C4D and external Communication wings. There is clearly a section that is overlapping and common to both.
In my experience, it is mainly the common range of tools that both the wings use which creates that overlap and fine line that is oftentimes overlooked; and territorial lines are over reached. While both C4D and External Comm use TV, Radio, Social Media and others, the purpose of the use by both is different. While C4D, among other more important workpieces, develops communication materials which are broadcast through TV, External Comm is supposed to be on track with what kind of impression that broadcast material is giving to the stakeholders who are watching it. In the event of any sensitive situation emerging from the said broadcast, it should inform the C4D team for mid-course correction.
That said, while this example made it more than clear to me, the way to explain to someone as to how C4D is distinct and different from External Communication is a challenge because, in reality, there is a very fine line which often gets blurred. And more often than not C4D, because of the nature of work it compasses, gets overshadowed.
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