Archive for the ‘Empowerment’ Category

Here is one example of a listening project, a small-scale, homegrown version of the one Susan Abbott wrote about a few weeks ago.  It’s called “Changing the System, From the Ground Up,” by Jennifer Lentfer.  She asked about 150 people on the front lines of development assistance what they would do to change the system of foreign aid.  Responses and comments left about them are interesting, many emphasizing the importance of listening itself, and of strengthening relationships among various aid stakeholders, particularly recipients on the ground.

How can we transform what we get out of listening into aid policy?  What would happen if listening itself were part of aid policy?

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.


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I am inspired today by the Listening Project, an initiative begun in 2005, to listen to the experiences of people who have been on the receiving end of development aid.  Their important work reminds us of what really should drive international development work, and helps us to better think through how we assess the impact of media development.

To get to the next stage of understanding the role of media development in the overall development agenda, perhaps our field could take heed and undertake a few listening projects designed and aimed at media development.  By becoming the audience of our recipients, we can better understand the impact of media assistance, and donor goals and strategies.  Listening can also strengthen our approach to program design, and help us to more fully integrate media with broader development goals.  Take a look through the Listening Project’s website, and let us know what you think — what could the media development community gain by a listening initiative?

Susan Abbott is the Deputy Director for Program Development at Internews

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Media development is yet to find its place in mainstream development agenda. It often comes as a second priority after a poor nation has done “enough” to take care of its poverty, health, nutrition, infrastructure, governance and corruption issues. While it does make sense to prioritize, given limited resources in developing countries, but relegating media development as a secondary agenda looses out on the untapped potential of the changes this sector (if well developed) can bring about. An independent, sustainable and quality media sector is an asset to any economy. Such a media sector has an undeniable role in bringing in an all-inclusive development and transparency into an economy. While the latter is relatively simpler to gauge (thanks to a plethora of governance indicators at our disposal), the former is much more difficult to be quantified. Hence, let me put forward some anecdotal evidence to try and visualize how a free media can help “empower” people.

The country in question is India. India is a very interesting case – despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the developing countries cohort, it is plagued with rampant poverty, illiteracy, corruption and misgovernance (to name a few). It is also a country that leads in the number of deaths by hit and run road accidents (approximately 0.1 million people died in such incidents in 2007). Here I would mention a very interesting case where the government has used the new media to engage the citizens to enhance its responsiveness and public accountability. Very recently, the Delhi Traffic Police (the country’s capital city) has launched a facebook profile where they are interacting with the common man. The purpose of the same is twofold: to update people on the traffic conditions and to get information on traffic rule violations by civilians and traffic cops alike. This is the first time a public department has taken up such an initiative with an intention to improve its service provision. The initiative was greeted with a sweeping response with around 25,000 people already “following” them within a week and the site has been inundated with pictures and information of vehicles and people violating traffic rules in various parts of the city. Interestingly enough, the department has been taking care of the violators irrespective of whether they are civilians or traffic cops alike. Following their success story, the Traffic Department of Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, has launched a similar facebook page.

Initiatives like the above makes involvement and use of media more inclusive and effective. It creates a direct platform where the populace feels engaged in the development process of the country. It gives them a voice and a sense of assurance. Media used responsibly like this does cater to its role of ensuring “Voice and Accountability”.

Cases like this further highlights why media development should not be isolated from economic development – one should be well integrated into the other to derive the desired changes we all want to bring about.

Sanjukta Roy is the Data Analyst for The Media Map Project.

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