Monthly Archives: June 2012

Different Strokes

A-ha! Even though I think I know–it turns out, I don’t know anything at all. I believe that it is only when you return to your roots that you will really understand what it is about. Like my field of study.

Development Communication (DevCom) began as Development Support Communication (DSC)–a methodology introduced by Erskine Childers, the director of UNDP’s Development Support Service based in Bangkok, in the 1960s. The idea was to use Communication techniques such as appraisal, planning, production (materials) and evaluation for selected projects supported by UNDP and UNICEF.

In the 1970s, Dr Nora C. Quebral, then the Chair of the Department of Agricultural Communications at the University of the Philippines Los Banos College of Agriculture, viewed Communication than merely a media-based support to development projects. She expound the idea of DSC, and coined the term, and in turn, established the Science of DevCom in the context of Agriculture (Flor & Ongkiko, 2003). Using media as tools was one, but the underlying research-based methodologies in identifying the needs of communities, together with the people, was highlighted as a crucial step in carrying out development interventions. The field and practice have evolved through the decades, expanding the scope of DevCom strategies to other social aspects and fields that are facing social issues and concerns to meet the needs of an ever-changing society; championing the power of people-centered development interventions towards an improved quality of life. DevCom was defined in 1971; today, the discipline is described as:

the science of human communication linked to the transitioning of communities from poverty in all its forms to a dynamic, overall growth that fosters equity and the unfolding of individual potential.”  (Quebral, 2011)

There are several approaches and domains in carrying out development interventions through communication. Among these are: 1) Social Mobilization (creation of a vast social movement for a particular program); 2) Science Communication (study and practice for generating, exchanging and utilizing scientific and technological knowledge and information to advance a country’s development goals); 3) Community Participation (educational and empowering process in which people are partners, not just passive receivers of interventions); 4) Information, Education and Communication (information delivery, training and human resource development); and 5) Participatory Action Research (the subjects are co-researchers), and many more. (Velasco, Cadiz & Lumanta, 1999)

There is no one exclusive approach to a specific community in focus; but no matter what the approach may be, it never disregards the main role of the stakeholders in action. DevCom, however, does not force change to happen. The improved state of life should be under the people’s pace and not to be expected to change at a restrictive time-frame. Above all, there should be a desire to change–the reason why development projects must be people-centered–so the stakeholders would be willing to sustain the content of the interventions even after the projects have been implemented. DevCom experts and practitioners serve as the link to a community’s needs and its path to development, making a dynamic partnership in achieving goals and realizing opportunities for the better.

Sources:

Flor, Alexander & Ila Virginia Ongkiko. (2003). Introduction to development communication. UPOU.

Quebral, Nora C. (2012). Development communication primer. Malaysia: Southbound. (Free download here)

Velasco, Ma. Theresa H., Ma. Celeste H. Cadiz, & Melinda F. Lumanta. (1999). DEVC 208: Social marketing and social mobilization for development. UPOU.

Note: The download link is totally legit. Check this story.

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Deconstruction

Think, Think. Photo by Cole Flor, Xieng Khouang, Laos 2009

The poverty I knew, when I was younger, involved street-children in tattered clothes, holding out their palms asking for food, money, or anything one can spare. I see one and I would immediately feel bad. However, I do not remember asking anyone why they were like so. All I know was there was the Rich, and there was the Poor–and there was nothing I can do about it.

Fast forward 12 years later, when I finally set foot in the university, that I studied about the Vicious Cycle of Poverty–societal problems are caused and resulted in such, trapped in a structure that has no beginning nor end; and to break the cycle is to solve one or more aspect. There’s unemployment, educational inadequacies, diseases and a whole spectrum of health issues, problematic maternal healthcare, environmental degradation, underdeveloped areas due to poor, or lack of, road construction and transportation that make basic needs inaccessible, cultural conflicts, gender inequality,  domestic violence, child exploitation, technological greed, to name a few. Alleviating one or more is not, ironically, as easy as feeding the empty stomach.

For what seems like forever, Development is what the world is striving/struggling to achieve, thus the existence NGOs, funding agencies, and aid institutions championing projects after projects aiming to alleviate poverty, in all its form. These projects may or may not entirely solve these societal problems, but they are carefully and intricately planned, designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated to uplift (marginalized) communities, groups, and individuals to address their needs, whether basic (food, shelter, clothing) or information-gap (educational, technological know-how, knowledge production, etc).

As I have gone through my undergraduate years, I experienced working with communities with development-needs that, in one or another, can be bridged by Communication. As students, we were christened as catalysts of social change–trained as (Development) Communication practitioners equipped with knowledge and skills on utilizing various forms of media for development-oriented initiatives in bringing about desirable social change. However, we were constantly reminded that Communication alone cannot eradicate poverty. There are more factors involved such as social context, resources, and more importantly the stakeholders that should be part from the inception all the way to the evaluation of development projects implemented. It’s like Hatching–an egg would not crack if there is no heat from the Mother hen nor if there is no life inside the shell pushing its way out (Cuyno & Lumanta, 1979, RMC-UPLB).

Somehow, somewhere, I found myself contemplating if I, as a ‘budding’ (Development) Communication practitioner, can really do my part in paying forward, so to speak. It is not like I am doubting my own knowledge and skills (but okay I do but that’s just self-esteem issues) but my concern is more on the complex structure of poverty itself that seems to multiply into more problems, instead of getting knocked down completely. It seems the more we (as change-agents) attempt to solve a problem, the more complications arise–and the effort exerted in these development activities are becoming physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all, financially taxing.  And I do regret to admit that I ask this myself an awful lot of times, can we really achieve development?

I am moving my way into my studies, and perhaps, my career, under this premise. As I learn more about the methods, theories and principles of the role of Development Communication in social change, the more unsettled I get. When before I thought that feeding programs are enough to solve the problem of the poor, I found out that there are more actions to be done in achieving development than I can study, and apply in this lifetime–and that is something that I am still, after almost six years of study, trying to wrap my head around. If societal problems are, indeed, involved in a cycle, would it really/ever break–would it still be worth breaking?

As a (Development) Communication-Practitioner-Wannabe, am I really willing to devote my focus, energy, time, knowledge and skills in aiding development that, from my point of view, seem so elusive and harder to achieve after every initiative? I have no idea. Perhaps, I am more idealistic than necessary, which is why I am frustrated with the role. Perhaps, social change is still vague to me. Or perhaps, it is my own purpose that is in question.

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Of Sneakers and Master Degrees

Feeling blessed. In Laos, these cotton strings are tied around one’s wrist for luck, happiness, safety, good health, wealth, etc. What a way to start the new academic year (my last year with the program–hopefully!).

Hey, Stranger!

If you are my Facebook friend, Twitter follower, Tumblr follower, estranged acquaintance, classmate, former/current professor, and/or random lurker–do not get confused with the content of Cole Walks–you have come to the right place.

I have been talking about pursuing my graduate degree online, and the cool thing about it? One of the requirements is to maintain a learning blog. Since I have already invested in Cole Walks’ domain for another year (and my travel stats are plummeting by the minute), I have decided to make use of this space, and hopefully, would be able to share something more apart from travel and culture.

If you are a regular reader, do not be surprised if you stumble upon posts about Development, Social Mobilization, Social Marketing, or any topic that has something to do with social change–that means you have met my alter ego. I am down to my last two semesters with the University of the Philippines Open University under their distance learning program, and my days are filled with intellectual discourses, readings and write-ups that I may or may not be able to survive. But I will try.

On the other hand, if you are of esteemed academic relation, please do not get turned off with my personal posts/adventures/or topics of, or relating to my travel writing days (for example, the Nightlife in some territory). You can skip the gory details of my traveling side, as it is on hiatus, but if you want to know more about Laos, and the rest of Southeast Asia, a little about the Netherlands, about Project Digital Natives With A Cause(?), about confessions of a twenty-something, feel free to browse the dates located on your right-hand side–just in case you get bored with Facebook, or you are killing time while waiting for a classmate’s reply in the Discussion Boards of MOODLE.

This is just a friendly signposting as to how Cole Walks is moving this year. It still is the same old Cole Walks though, I still love telling stories. Enjoy reading!

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