Print Version Print Version Email to Friend Email to Friend
MAZI Articles

CFSC Consortium and UNDP Oslo Governance Centre Partner to Address the Communication Needs of Poor People

For nearly three years, the CFSC Consortium has been working as an implementing partner with UNDP Oslo Governance Centre on its Communication for Empowerment initiative in three countries of Africa and two Asian nations. Funded in part by the United Nations Democracy Fund, this innovative trial has revealed several valuable lessons about how people living in poverty view their communication opportunities and information needs. It has allowed the Consortium to test our theoretical views in challenging real-life circumstances, making our practice more grounded and effective. In this piece, excerpted from the final report of the Communication for Empowerment project with UNDP OGC, Consortium President Denise Gray-Felder also reflects on the opportunities for large aid agencies to work most effectively with smaller, more nimble NGOs.

Foreword by Denise Gray-Felder, CFSC Consortium and Bjoern Førde, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre:

Communication underpins human development because it enables people to access, produce and transfer to others information that is important for their empowerment and progress.  Through communication people are able to arrive at their own understanding of issues, to consider and discuss ideas, and to engage in public discourse and debates.  Communication thus enables people to negotiate, develop and act on knowledge, and it facilitates the formation of public opinion without which democracy cannot exist.

While being very different types of organisations and working with very different mandates, the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Communication for Social Change Consortium share an understanding of the importance of communication as a tool and a methodology that can make development strategies more effective, more sustainable and more pro-poor and gender sensitive.

In the case of UNDP, the recently approved 2008-2013 Strategic Plan recognises that communication channels are key determinants of inclusive participation, which is a key focus for the work of UNDP in the area of democratic governance.  The approach is rooted in the knowledge that one of the challenges facing developing countries is the lack of inclusion and participation of poor people and vulnerable groups in decisions that impact on their lives. 

The Communication for Social Change Consortium fundamentally believes that communication has the power to change societies.  Using participatory communication to better understand how commonly held social values and beliefs are nurtured and spread within cultures is a powerful step in helping people decide upon, and begin to make, the kind of changes they want and need in order to make their lives better.  Said differently, the Consortium helps people get the skills and feel empowered enough to advocate for changes that will make their communities healthier, their countries stronger and their families more productive.  When people come together in dialogue—and to plan and act together—it is the truest form of democracy.

In 2007, the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre developed a UNDP Guidance Note on Communication for Empowerment, drawing upon the expertise of the Communication for Social Change Consortium.  The purpose of this guidance note was to turn general insights about inclusion into mainstream planning processes that can facilitate understanding of the information and communication needs of poor and marginalised people. We also hoped, as we were pulling this guidance note together, that the communication for empowerment approach could become a permanent feature in national development planning processes in least developed countries.

This report is the result of our three-year partnership in piloting the Communication for Empowerment approach in five countries: Ghana, Madagascar and Mozambique in Africa and the PDR Laos and Nepal in Asia. The final report to UNDEF presents key learning from the information and communication needs assessments conducted in each of the five countries.  The pilot process offered a unique opportunity to test the communication for empowerment framework and to better understand how information flows within communities, as well as how the voices of those people who are least often heard or seen can be unleashed.  As a result of the communication assessments, both organizations—UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the CFSC Consortium—have broadened our own conception of Communication for Empowerment.  Whereas UNDP originally envisioned a somewhat narrower extension of its Access to Information work—which is primarily geared to meeting the information and communication needs of people using specific media strategies—to a more comprehensive and rigorous approach that promotes inclusive participation, empowerment of  poor and marginalised people and accountability of the state to its citizens.

We hope that this report marks the first step in moving the Communication for Empowerment agenda and the set of recommendations forward, including a revised Communication for Empowerment framework.  We suggest that the recommendations we have made can be adopted by various development actors in order to ensure that poor and marginalised people are able to access information equitably and able to participate effectively in the governance and decision-making processes in their countries and communities.  

[The following is excerpted from the final report to the United Nations Democracy Fund on the Communication for Empowerment Initiative, which UNDEF supported along with co-funding from the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and in-kind contributions from the CFSC Consortium.]


The Communication for Empowerment process emerges from UNDP Oslo Governance Centre’s (OGC) work on Access to Information which started in 2002.1  The Practice Note on Access to Information, produced in 2003, identified four main areas that are critical for promoting access to information for all:

  • Strengthening the legal and regulatory environment for freedom and pluralism of information sources;
  • Supporting capacity strengthening, networking and elevation of standards of media at national and local levels to promote the exchange of independent and pluralist information;
  • Raising awareness on rights to official information and strengthening mechanisms to provide and access information; and
  • Strengthening communication mechanisms for vulnerable groups.

In relation to the fourth bullet, UNDP recognises that it is important to create the pre-conditions for strengthening the voices of poor people in public life.  In addition to civic education and building civic skills, strengthening of poor people’s voices also requires creation and strengthening of communication mechanisms that enable poor people to participate in and influence national and local government policy and practice.  Access to relevant information and communication mechanisms is also an essential step in enabling poor people to hold their governments to account.2

The Communication for Empowerment framework was developed in collaboration with the Communication for Social Change Consortium in order to develop strategies, particularly with media, to address the information and communication needs of poor and marginalised groups.

OGC reached out to the Communication for Social Change Consortium for help in producing its Guidance Note on Communication for Empowerment primarily due to the Consortium’s reputation as a leader in the particular area of access to information.  Based on the expressed need from country offices for further guidance on how to practically implement the C4E approach and the tool presented in the Guidance Note, OGC and the CFSC Consortium partnered together to pilot the C4E approach in the five target countries.  The United Nations Democracy Fund provided funding to pilot the approach in two regions: Africa and Asia.

The implementation of the C4E approach consisted of: 1) information and communication assessments to identify the information and communication needs and identify gaps in meeting those needs; 2) review of the media context based on the existing research at the national level; and 3) programme interventions informed by the findings of the assessment to ensure poor and marginalised groups’ participation in decision-making processes.

Experiences and lessons from testing the C4E approach in Madagascar and Mozambique in 2007-2008 enabled further refining of the communication for empowerment process and informed the information and communication assessments carried out in Ghana, Laos and Nepal.

The implementation of the C4E project in Asian countries also differed from the African countries.  While the information and communication assessments conducted in the African countries focused on the needs of the marginalised groups in general, the assessments in Asia specifically focused on the needs of indigenous peoples in each country.

The main purposes of this collaboration were to:

  • Situate communication for empowerment within UNDP’s Democratic Governance body of work , specifically in promotion of inclusive participation of poor and marginalised groups through media and other information and communication channels;
  • Synthesise key learning from applying the process in five pilot countries;
  • Recommend ways to strengthen the process so that it can be easy to implement at country levels; and
  • Provide an overview of the specific information and communication needs of poor people in each of the five pilot countries.

We believe that as a result of our initiative, UNDP and the CFSC Consortium can better use the communication for empowerment process to focus in-country attention on the necessity of strong information and communication channels.  We also believe that in most of the pilot countries poor people themselves are better able to see the possibilities of using inclusive participatory communication processes to demand and bring about social change.

It is also important to look at the collaboration between the OGC and the Consortium itself as this sets a new standard for how U.N. agencies might engage NGOs.  From the beginning this was a full partnership in which a small global organization was able to bring its ideas and experience to a large U.N. operation on a level playing field. We were not “doing the bidding” of UNDP as consultants but rather we were helping them develop a new strategic line of work for which they needed fresh vision.  Neither organisation knew what we would find when we went out into the communities—either to audit local information and communication needs—or to assess the impact of communication on local policy and government decision-making.  It was exciting because we were using United Nations Democracy Fund money to employ a democratic process!

Going forward, we expect that the communication for empowerment approach will be perfected and made more intuitive for local development and government partners to use.  We expect that the knowledge we’ve gleaned will be useful to many other agencies—United Nations and otherwise—who believe in the power of effective participatory communication.  And, in terms of working relationships, we suspect that there will be more opportunities for U.N. agencies to co-develop strategic areas of work with international, national and indigenous NGOS.

Access to Information and Democratic Governance

Access to information and freedom of expression are international human rights norms enshrined in Article 19 of both the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  They state that the right to freedom of expression includes not only freedom to “impart information and ideas of all kinds” but also freedom to “seek and receive them regardless of frontiers” and in whatever medium.  Implementation of these rights are understood as prerequisites for ensuring the voice, participation, transparency and accountability necessary for a democratic society with informed debate viewed as the “lifeblood of democracies.”3

Access to information is widely regarded as important for deepening democracy, for a variety of reasons.  Government transparency has been advocated as a basic precondition for the ability of citizens to participate in policy deliberations, to cast informed choices at the ballot box and to hold governing parties, parliamentary representatives and public officials to account for their actions, as well as for the basic principle of promoting freedom of expression and speech.4  The drive against corruption has also been fundamental in emphasising the importance of access to information.  The implementation of Right to Information legislation is regarded as the best method to reveal cases of official malfeasance and misappropriation. 

The communication for empowerment approach was developed within the broad access to information framework for democracy and human development.  Empowerment in this context is understood as the “freedom to act in pursuit of personal goals and well-being.”5 C4E places the information and communication needs and interests of poor people at the centre of media support.  It focus on the capacity and capability of the media to generate and provide the information that marginalised groups want and need and to provide  channels for them to discuss and voice their perspective on the issues that most concern them.6

In some countries communication for empowerment has evolved further, reflecting greater emphasis placed by a range of national development actors, particularly civil society organizations, on the specific process of empowerment.7

Improving the Quality of Democracy and Human Development

The basic premise underpinning C4E is that independent and pluralist media have a pivotal part to play in deepening democracy and strengthening human development.  The Human Development Report (2002) ascribes three crucial roles to free media:

  1. As a civic forum, giving voice to different parts of society and enabling debate from all viewpoints;
  2. As a mobilising agent, facilitating civic engagement among all sectors of society and strengthening channels of public participation; and
  3. As a watchdog, checking abuses of power, increasing government transparency and holding public officials accountable for their actions in the court of public opinion.8

The C4E approach aims to ensure that the media have the capacity to contribute to combating the social and political exclusion of poor people and marginalised groups, by generating the information that they want and need and providing them with appropriate communication channels to participate in public debate and discuss and voice views on issues that concern them.

The C4E tool functions as an instrumental means of applying the approach by involving poor people directly in identifying and analysing their information and communication needs and in incorporating their views into decisions on how best to meet those needs.  The tool uses both participatory and research-based methods and has three core and interlinked elements:

  1. Information and communication assessments: to understand poor people’s information and communication needs and identify gaps where those needs are not being met;
  2. Review of existing research at national levels; and
  3. Programme interventions informed by audit and research findings: These aim to address the identified gaps by increasing access to information for poor and marginalised groups, amplifying their voice through appropriate communication channels and creating spaces for public debate, dialogue and action. 9

A key assumption underpinning the audits is that poor people need different types of information to meet their specific requirements as well as opportunities to express opinions and preferences on issues that directly impact on their lives.  Often the information available to them is inappropriate either in content (it does not reflect their particular reality) or presentation (it is not in their local language).  Many information systems have been set up to provide information to poor people that are not demand driven, overlook local knowledge, misunderstand the role of intermediaries and do not monitor usage.10

The information audit is designed to assess the extent to which people are able to access information and come to their own understanding of issues.11  Information:

needs to be accessible and understandable to poor people living at the margins of society.  It needs to be in a language they can understand and in a form they can access on their own terms.  It needs to relate to their personal situations.12

Equally important to ascertaining the information needs of poor people is understanding the opportunities they have to share and exchange ideas and communicate their own views.  The communication audit is intended to determine the extent to which views and aspirations of marginalised groups are heard and reflected in media coverage.

Raised Profile of the Media in Global Development Landscape

Rapidly changing communication environments in many countries, particularly as a result of media liberalisation and new information technologies, together with wider societal changes have led to a growing information and communication gap between the better off who are able to take advantage of these changes and the disadvantaged and marginalised groups who can’t.  Relatively limited analysis of the nature and extent of this information and communication gap has meant that the global development community does not yet have a clear understanding of the development implications of the problem—especially how it affects poor people’s participation in formulating development strategies and their ability to hold the state to account.

However, there are some indications that policy makers and development practitioners are increasingly recognising the importance of a free and pluralist media in realising governance and development objectives.13  A number of factors have converged to raise media’s profile as a potentially powerful force in development.14

  1. The increasingly networked character of developing country societies: Increased democratisation, use of communication technologies, rapid liberalisation and proliferation of media together with the emergence of more dynamic civil societies within a globalising world is leading to new opportunities and challenges for using information and communication to empower poor people to participate in social and political life.
  2. The importance of power structure analysis to successful development strategies: Development discourses such as “drivers of change” studies, are paying attention to the way vested interests and other political factors affect development interventions.  The media’s role in reinforcing (i.e controlled by vested interests) or countering this influence is becoming a consideration in the design of effective development strategies.
  3. A balance to direct budget support15: In order to balance the direct transfer of funds to a partner country’s budget some donors are considering increased funding of CSOs and the media in order that the latter are better able to carry out their watch-dog function vis a vis governments.
  4. A growing communication knowledge network: This is characterised by a rapid and diverse proliferation of communication initiatives across the developing world, often driven by CSOs and media NGOs.
  5. Documenting experience of what works and demonstrating impact: Evaluations of recent development experience, particularly of HIV/AIDS initiatives, have led to a reassessment of traditional communication approaches and greater attention paid to participatory communication strategies using various media.

With its strong focus on the media Communication for Empowerment can contribute to reducing this information and communication gap by supporting relevant media to increase access to information for poor people, provide opportunities and spaces for them to air their concerns in the public arena, to discuss and debate issues between themselves and with others and amplify their voice.16    

Inclusive Participation and Social Accountability

There is a general acknowledgement across the international development community that success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the broader development and governance objectives represented by the Millennium Declaration will be determined in large part by the extent to which there is ownership of national planning and development processes.

Critical factors in achieving ownership of development strategies are informed participation in inclusive public debate together with the ability to hold the state to account for the effective implementation of those strategies.  Participating in such public debate and holding the government to account is extremely difficult if the media are not informed, engaged and capable of both reaching and reflecting the opinions of the poor, those most affected by development decisions, and exercising their watchdog role.17  C4E can therefore be regarded as a potentially critical driver for securing the necessary participation, ownership and accountability which are crucial underpinnings of effective democratic governance and human development.

More practically, Communication for Empowerment is closely related to the concept of Communication for Development which was defined in a General Assembly Resolution in 1996 as “communication for development stresses the need to support two-way communication systems that enable dialogue and that allow communities to speak out, express their aspirations and concerns and participate in the decisions that relate to their development.”

Participation and Accountability: Bedrocks of Democracy

A number of reasons are commonly advanced as to why participation and social accountability are integral to governance and development processes including:

Participation encourages governments to respond to their citizens’ concerns.

Citizen participation is at the heart of democracy.  Indeed, democracy is unthinkable without the ability of citizens to participate in the governing process.  Through their activity citizens in a democracy seek to control who will hold public office and to influence what government does.  Political participation provides the mechanism by which citizens can communicate information about their interests, preferences and needs whilst generating pressure to respond.18

Underpinning the above definition by Sidney Verba is an assumption that participation is an instrumental act which affects how a government responds to people’s needs and preferences.  It is generally assumed that elected governments are more likely to respond to the more active, better organised and more articulate within society and that their policies are more likely to reflect the preferences of those groups.  Participation processes determine whose voices are heard and amplified and whose are “muted.”  Broader and more equal political participation reflecting society as a whole is considered a prerequisite for more responsive and democratic governance.19  In those countries with new and often fragile democratic institutions and practices there is a strong likelihood that without opportunities for more equalisation of participation opportunities, central and local government bodies become extremely vulnerable to the interests of the better off and more influential in society at the expense of the more vulnerable groups. 

Many in the wider development community now recognise the importance of expanding the concept of participation beyond that of participatory development, which has focused largely on the importance of local knowledge and direct participation in the project cycle, to include that of “participatory governance” which tackles issues such as government accountability, advocacy, awareness raising, rights education and citizen mobilisation.20  This reflects a shift towards the related concept of social accountability whereby CSOs and citizens act to hold government to account and their actions are supported by a range of other stakeholders including the media.21  Social accountability mechanisms are intended to complement and reinforce formal accountability systems.22  A distinguishing feature of social accountability, unlike other vertical accountability mechanisms such as elections, is that it can be exercised in a continuous basis, for example through a variety of media and communication channels.23

This move towards participatory governance and social accountability captures the notion of active citizenship as “a set of practices (juridical, political, economic or cultural) which define a person as a competent member of society and which as a consequence shape the flow of resources to persons and social groups.”24

Social accountability and participation are at the heart of a human rights based approach to development

Social accountability can be seen as making operational a number of the key principles which are at the core of a human rights-based approach to development.  With a human rights-based approach, rights holders (citizens) can hold duty bearers (government and other service providers) to account for their commitments using national and international legislation.  Many groups or people living in poverty are unable to use formal mechanisms such as the courts, therefore other measures such as protests, lobbying, public and political campaigns become extremely important means to help strengthen the accountability of states to their poorer citizens.  Strengthening access to information and promoting an independent media are important practices for enhancing social accountability.25 

It can also be argued that in a human rights-based approach to development citizens as rights holders can only make valid claims on the state and other duty bearers if they become engaged in the decisions and processes that affect their lives.26  The UNDP Human Development Report 2000 on Human Rights and Human Development argues that elections are not enough and that new ways must be found to  “secure economic, social and cultural rights for the most deprived and to ensure their participation  in decision-making.”27  Some commentators argue that the right to participate should be considered a prior right and a prerequisite for the realisation of other rights.28

The act of participation can enhance the skills and competencies of citizens.

Participation has the potential to be a powerful transformative force through the process of gaining ordinary people’s interest and encouraging their participation and developing their confidence and capabilities.29  A key question is the extent to which participation through various channels including the media enables people to engage actively beyond specific, often discrete, interventions into a broad range of arenas and progressively change the underlying causes of exclusion that exist within communities and which govern the opportunities for individuals and groups to claim citizenship.30 

Key Learning from Application of the C4E Approach

The findings suggest that the communication for empowerment approach is an effective means of identifying the range of information poor people want and need and in suggesting how various media can provide such information. Yet, in most poorer countries—primarily due to lack of confidence and capacity—people living in poverty do not yet use the media to any great extent to exchange information, communicate their views or participate in public dialogue.  Rather, they continue to rely on traditional communication forums such as village meetings and market place discussions. 

The C4E approach was conceived to improve the capacity of the media to meet information and communication needs of poor people and marginalised groups.  The research findings indicate that promoting and improving the capabilities of inclusive media, such as community radio, may not be sufficient to enable poor people to use and participate in these communication channels.  The results of the pilots suggest that the C4E tool either needs to make provision to include more specific support for citizen empowerment, for example using local NGOs, CBOs or other intermediaries to develop interactive programme formats and reporting styles to help poor groups use the media, or be linked more directly to civic education initiatives.

A stock taking of research findings from each of the five pilot studies reveal a number of themes/issues that are common to more than one pilot country.  While some highlight emerging trends and others reinforce existing learning and challenges, all have important implications for the third pillar of the communication for empowerment tool—designing appropriate programme interventions to fill information and communication gaps.  They include:

  1. The dominant role of radio, particularly community radio, as an information medium for poor people;
  2. The limited confidence and capacity of many poor people to use media to communicate;
  3. The importance of mixing traditional and new information technologies in strategies designed to improve democratic governance and reduce poverty;
  4. The importance of a safe public space in providing support and expanding opportunities for communication and participation in decision making process;
  5. The growing importance of mobile telephony;
  6. The importance of a supportive legal and regulatory environment for the media; and
  7. The differential access to the media by men and women.  (Men have greater access to and time to listen to radio. They more often control decisions within households about which programmes are listened to.)

Dominance of Radio as an Information Medium for People Living in Poverty

Perhaps not surprisingly, the studies in each country confirmed the continued pre-eminence of radio as the medium of choice for people living in poverty to access information.  Several reasons were cited for this preference including: the relatively low cost of radios and the easy availability of radios and batteries in the market place31; broadcasting in local languages; and a high degree of trust in the content.  In some localities with access to community radio and/or FM stations, two-way communication through participative radio programmes was cited as a key factor.  

Community radio meets the accessibility and appropriateness criteria regarded by many agencies as essential if communication technologies are to contribute to poverty eradication, but findings from Ghana, Laos and Mozambique indicate concerns over sustainability of this medium.32  Problems raised included lack of funds to make programmes and to replace equipment, limited programming and reporting skills of journalists and at times complex relationships with local authorities.

Limited Confidence and Capacity of Poor People to Use Media to Communicate and Participate in Public Life

Most of the country reports highlight low levels of literacy and limited confidence and skills as a significant barrier to poor people using media to participate more fully in community and public life.  Some of the research findings indicate that even if a communication mechanism is available the possibility for engagement cannot be taken for granted.  More attention needs to be given to creating the pre-conditions of voice through raising awareness and building confidence and capacity to speak out.  This point is made explicitly in the Madagascar report which states “radio alone is not able to effect long term change in people’s attitudes and practices and needs to be accompanied by face to face support and training.” 

Merging Traditional and New Communication Channels

The analysis of the data confirms the paramount importance to poorer groups of traditional communication mechanisms and suggests that new information and communication technologies should not supplant traditional information channels such as village and church meetings.  Rather, any communication strategy should strive to reflect the best mix and match of new and traditional technologies to meet the needs of local people.  Traditional and religious leaders are held in high esteem by Ghanaian society.  Research in Ada, one of the research locations in Ghana, found that the Chiefs had adopted community radio as a new tool to help them carry out their traditional leadership role.  They saw it as a stronger megaphone to help them get closer to local people.  The Laos study highlights the need to consider a wide spectrum of communication channels to promote development throughout the country.  It makes clear that, in some circumstances, loud speakers will be a cost effective short-range information channel until proper radio coverage is set up.

The Importance of Public Spaces in Promoting Two-Way Communication

A number of the reports mention the importance of a safe public place for poor people to come together to discuss issues.  Such spaces are especially important for helping to overcome the relative isolation of poor women by bringing them out of their domestic confinement.

A high priority is placed on face-to-face communication by people in all pilot countries.  In Mozambique more than 80 percent of those interviewed said they use meetings in churches, schools and other public places to discuss issues of general interest to the community.  A meeting in Laos held to analyse the rural communication system concluded that information centres are needed at all levels.  The Madagascar study recommends a network of regional communication centres to support local communication initiatives.

The Growing Importance of Mobile Telephony

Mobile telephony is growing fast in all five pilot countries but the extent of usage varies. Access to mobile telephones is the highest in rural Nepal.  Increasing competition within the sector is likely to encourage further expansion into rural and more remote areas and reduce the cost of handsets making them more accessible to poorer people. 

In Ghana, the use of mobile phones is now commonplace in many parts of the country.  Importantly, there is increasing interaction and synergy between mobile telephony and radio (both FM and community radio stations) as a growing number of people use their mobiles to have their say on various call-in radio programmes.  Among the most popular programmes are those where local politicians and government officials explain/defend their policies to local people who are encouraged to call in with questions/comments.  These types of call-in programmes provide opportunities for ordinary people to engage in governance and development processes. 

The link between radio and mobile telephony is also evident in call-in programmes on Khoun community radio in Laos where calls from mobile phones account for the majority of the high volume of calls to the station. 

Importance of Supportive Legal and Regulatory Environment for the Media

Most of the pilot studies highlight the importance of a supportive legal and regulatory environment to sustain a pluralist and professional media capable of using communication as an empowerment tool.  Legal and regulatory frameworks that protect and enhance community media are especially critical for ensuring vulnerable groups’ freedom of expression and access to information.  Media in some of the pilot countries face particular challenges such as strict libel laws designed to curb media critics.  Of the five pilot countries only Nepal has a Freedom of Information Law although a Freedom of Information Bill is awaiting ratification by the Ghanaian parliament.

Differential Access to the Media by Women and Men/ Gender and the Media

Who decides which programmes to listen to within the household differs from country to country?  The Mozambique and Madagascar studies suggest that although the radio is generally owned by men all family members can decide whether to turn on the radio and what to listen to.  In Mozambique radio is listened to mostly by women as men are often working outside the home.  

The Ghana study suggests a correlation between gender, literacy and the media (radio).  It points to a significant literacy divide between men and women with a large percentage of women in the three pilot areas having no formal education.  Radio, TV and other communication tools, invariably owned by men, are associated with literacy, status and power.  Research findings from all three Ghanaian communities indicate that women have limited control over access to and use of radio with men taking decisions on which programmes to listen to and when to listen.  Interviews with local community groups and individuals suggest that Ghanaian women’s relative distance from radio and other communication sources can also be attributed to their traditional roles of raising children, taking care of the family and trading.

The Way Forward—Recommendations

The pilots confirm that communication for empowerment has the potential to be a significant driver for increasing citizen participation in policy formulation and in broader governance and development processes.  It is important that priority is now given to refining and strengthening the approach in line with the findings from the pilot studies.

We therefore recommend:

-- Revised Communication for Empowerment framework
Use the pilot project to produce a revised framework for the C4E approach which balances support to the media with greater emphasis on creating the preconditions for voice through citizen empowerment.  A revised framework would also incorporate a more explicit gender dimension and provide more guidance to addressing gender-related issues at local level.  The framework should analyse and identify opportunities for promoting stronger national ownership.

-- Greater collaboration between various development actors to address identified gaps
Promote and coordinate effective linkages with other organisations working on information and communication specifically to consider how emerging issues and challenges identified might best be addressed.  For instance, how best to merge traditional and new communication channels to meet the needs of poor people or how to promote innovative use of technologies that would provide cost-effective services to people who are poor or marginalised.


[1] UNDP, Access to Information Practice Note, 2003

[2] UNDP, Communication for Empowerment: Developing media strategies in support of vulnerable groups, Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[3] UNDP, Human Development Report 2002: ‘ Deepening  Democracy in a fragmented world’.

[4] Burkart Holzner and Leslie Holzner. 2006.   Transparency in global change: the vanguard of the open society Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. 

[5] UNDP, Human Development Report 2009 cites Sen’s definition of empowerment in ‘Inequality reexamined’,1992

[6] UNDP, C4E Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[7] Specifically, the implementation of the C4E project in Asia has subsumed the C4E approach within overall focus on to promote inclusive participation and empowerment

[8] UNDP Human Development Report, 2002

[9] UNDP, C4E Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[10] UNDP, Access to Information Practice Note, 2003

[11] UNDP, C4E Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[12] ibid

[13] BBC World Service Trust, Governance and the Media, 2009

[14] UNDP, Communication for Empowerment: developing media strategies in support of vulnerable groups’,  Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[15] BBC World Service Trust, Governance and the media – a survey of public opinion

[16] UNDP, Communication for Empowerment: developing media strategies in support of vulnerable groups’,  Practical Guidance Note, 2006

[17] UNDP, C4E Practical Guidance Note, 2006. See also UNESCO, Media Development Indicators: a framework for assessing media development, 2008 defines indicators of media development in line with the priority areas of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC): promotion of freedom of expression and media pluralism; development of community media; and human resource development (capacity building of media professionals and institutional capacity building).

[18] F. Bliss and S. Neuman in, ‘Participation in International Development Discourse and Practice. “State of the Art” and Challenges’, p.11 quote Sidney Verba’a definition of participation  in ‘Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics ( 1995)

[19] UNDP, ‘ Democratic Governance Strategic Initiatives’ ( unpublished draft paper, 2007)

[20] J. Gaventa,  Towards Participatory Local Governance:  Assessing the Transformative Possibilities’  p.3 prepared for conference on Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation’ 2003

[21] UNDP,   Nurturing social accountability, a guidance note  (draft )

[22] ibid

[23] ibid

[24] S. Hickey and G. Mohan  in ‘Relocating participation within a radical politics of development: citizenship and critical modernism’ p.11, cites Roberts’  definition of citizenship in

[25] UNDP, Nurturing social accountability, a guidance note  (draft )

[26] J. Gaventa,  Towards Participatory Local Governance:  Assessing the Transformative Possibilities’  cites DFID’s  Realising Human Rights for Poor People, (2000)

[27] ibid

[28] ibid

[29] C. Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p.43

[30] S. Hickey and G. Mohan  in ‘Relocating participation within a radical politics of development: citizenship and critical modernism’

[31] Respondents in Madagascar, Mozambique and Ghana mentioned that the cost of replacing batteries was an important item in the household budget.

[32] Participants at the 5th UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development (1995)  identified accessibility, appropriateness and sustainability as  three essential criteria for  communication technologies to contribute successfully to poverty eradication –

Click here to return to Mazi 20

Click here to return to the main listing