I. Introduction: What is Empowerment?

The World Bank defines empowerment as: "the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions, which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets."5

There are such a wide variety of empowerment programs out there, but one method used to promote empowerment of marginalized groups is communication through technology. Below are three types of communication for development programs that represent the major categories currently being implemented in the field.

II. Participatory vs. Non-Participatory Communication

The table below describes some of the key elements of both participatory and non-participatory communication.

Table 1: Participatory vs. Non-Participatory Communication1
Non-Participatory Communication Elements
Participatory Communication Elements
  • Vertical Communication: Information senders and receivers
  • Targets individuals for individual behavioral change
  • Lateral Communication: Information is shared among partners
  • Aims to reach groups for community behavioral change
  • More massive outreach, general message
  • Content is driven by outside agendas; information receivers do not have input
  • Specific message shared in local language, considers local cultures
  • Content is created with community input

III. Non-Participatory Radio Programming 2

Projects: Radio and Community Outreach in Tanzania

Dates of the Project: 2010 - 2012

The purpose of the project was to influence gender norms in order to promote better health decision-making among both men and women. A study was conducted to determine if airing short radio spots promoting gender equality, as it relates to family planning decisions, influenced contraceptive sales, joint family planning decision-making between husbands and wives, as well as changes in gender attitudes and family planning attitudes.
The findings from this trial were inconclusive. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, C-Change and fhi360 were unable to determine if the inclusion of gender themes in family planning in the radio spots results in better family planning practices and gender equitable decision-making within the household. This example demonstrates the vertical communication mentioned in Table 1.

Research has shown that radio promotion has successfully influenced family planning use, but this study attempted to apply the same techniques to influencing gender norms. In this case they were unsuccessful, which highlights a few questions to consider when designing and information campaign, such as: what is the expected impact; who is your audience; and which behavior are you trying to influence? When it comes to behavioral change, there are some that are more easy to influence than others - so it seems. Some behavior changes simply require more information, like using family planning techniques. In these cases, non-participatory methods, such as radio, can be applied.

IV. Participatory Video

Project: Millennium Village Project in Sauri, Kenya9

As one of the many activities being implemented in Sauri, Kenya, the Millennium Villages Project introduced a pilot participatory video project. It was built on anexisting activity. There were already two youth theater groups in Sauri who were already passionate about theater. They conducted skits and plays within the village, and this project taught them the skills to create films based on their plays. Some of the skills transferred to these theater groups included: how to shoot video footage, create plots using the storyboard method, and video editing using iMovie.

After six weeks, each group produced a 40-minute film - covering topics such as early marriage and nutrition. The ideas were created by the local theater groups and then shown at community events in the village. The stakeholders in the project include: the Millennium Village Project staff, the youth groups, community leaders (including Assistant Village Chiefs), community health workers, general community members, and the parents of those in the theater groups.

Who is the Audience?
Presenting the the films directly to the community during events guarantees that the message is delivered to the target audience. In the case of Sauri, the videos were being shown during community events in the village - they were created for the village, by the village. In addition to the viewings within the village context, the films are being used as a fundraising tool outside of the village. The films are being shown as a part of the African Diaspora International Film Festival6 in New York on December 4th.

Project: Global Girl Media

Global Girl Media is...”a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities around the world through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures." 4 The program encourages girls to use technical equipment to film and create content on topics that affect them. These films and videos are then posted on YouTube and distributed in other ways. A few of the Global Girl Media graduates have received awards for their work.

One of their most recent projects is from Morocco. Moroccan women between 17 and 22 years old created a 30-minute documentary to expose and discuss the issue of sexual harassment. The documentary, "Breaking the Silence: Moroccans Speak Out on Sexual Harassment," includes women's accounts of sexual harassment, interviews with men about what is flirting versus harassment, expert opinions on the subject, and recommendations on how to improve the current situation.

Who is the audience?
This is the biggest question, it seems, when talking about participatory communication. For projects such as the "Breaking the Silence" video we can see that the reporters and creators got a lot out of it, but the audience may not be as easy to find. Global Girl Media's website sells bracelets to help fund the mission in US dollars, the video went live on YouTube on November 25th and has 3,770 views, and the comments on the video are written in French and Arabic. The last point was a pleasant surprise, it appears that Moroccans are watching and commenting on the video rather than Americans.

Breaking the Silence: Moroccans Speak Out on Sexual Harassment 3

V. Interview

Alyssa Mesich spent her summer working on the MVP project in Sauri, Kenya to integrate media and culture into the Millennium Development Goals. As a part of the pilot year, Mesich was involved in the design and implementation of the program.

Q: When using video/film for participatory communication, who is the target audience?
A: The target audience is the wider community. The youth groups are already passionate about theater and helping their community. Their goal was to reach the wider community through screenings so they would be more educated on issues that concern the community.

Q: Do you think this is the appropriate audience?
A: Yes, as long as the screenings take place and people attend them. It’s a similar method to marketing where you repeat the same message through different films and multiple screenings. The hope is that the community will see the messages in the film multiple times and then change their behavior. For example, if they see that family planning is safe and an effective way to plan their family then they change their attitude or consult their health worker about family planning methods.

Q: Who would you say are the stakeholder(s) who benefit the most from the project? How do they benefit?
A: The youth groups benefit from the multimedia skill transfer and possible income generating opportunities. But the main beneficiary should be the wider community.

Q: If you could make any recommendations regarding this project, what would they be?
A: In order to reach the wider community an emphasis on screenings and a culture of screenings needs to be established. This means that screenings need to occur regularly with feedback provided to the youth theater groups. The youth groups should treat the community as their client and produce films that are relevant to them.

Q: Are there any other participatory communications programs you would recommend exploring (especially for those interested in learning more)?
A: Photovoice, Global Voices, and Insight Share.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to address regarding participatory communications?
A: It’s important that the youth groups (or participants involved) are taking the lead for the project. The trainers or facilitators should assist, but their work should not be evident in the film project. This is essential in order for the project to be sustainable.

VI. Conclusion: Purpose and Recommendations

C-Planning Graphic (citation).JPG
The purpose of all of these methods is to reach a community and challenge existing ideas regarding the topic presented. Ideally, the community should be the beneficiary. In the case of Global Girl Media, YouTube distribution of content may not be reaching the communities from which the creators are from. Sam Gregory has discussed this topic in his work with Witness. In a blog post regarding using video for activism, Gregory outlined some guiding principles for video campaigns that are very much applicable to participatory communication (video or otherwise) projects. His most compelling and applicable point is that program implementers should make sure the video is part of a greater campaign; video should be a compliment, or element, of the program and not the entire program.7

The combination of Gregory's guiding principle and the general best practices for development programs, as demonstrated in the diagram to the left8, should minimize the potential failures and help ensure success when implementing a participatory communication program that challenges current norms and behaviors in a community - which ever community that may be.

1 Tufte, Thomas and Mefalopulos, Paolo. World Bank, "Participatory Communication, A Practical Guide." Working Paper No. 170. 2012. http://orecomm.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Participatory_Communication.pdf

2 Lezni, Rachel; Schuler, Sidney Ruth; Alaii, Jane; and Nanda, Geeta. fhi360, "Radio and Community Outreach to Promote Gender Equity and Family Planning in Tanzania: Results of a Field Test." https://www.c-changeprogram.org/sites/default/files/Radio-Gender-Equity-FP-Tanzania.pdf

3 Global Girl Media. "Breaking the Silence: Moroccans Speak Out on Sexual Harassment." November 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MA1LrH9-Mk
4 Global Girl Media. "About Us." November 2013. http://globalgirlmedia.org/about-us/

5 World Bank. "Overview: What is Empowerment?" 2011. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTEMPOWERMENT/0,,contentMDK:20244572~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:486411,00.html

6 New York African Diaspora International Film Festival. http://nyadiff.org/the-kampaly-story/

7 Gregory, Sam. Witness Blog. March 17, 2012. http://blog.witness.org/2012/03/kony-2012-juggling-advocacy-audience-and-agency-when-using-video4change/

8 Communication for Change. https://www.c-changeprogram.org/

9 Millennium Village Project. http://millenniumvillages.org/the-villages/sauri-kenya/