Cover Page


Notes on Contributors

Series Editor’s Preface




Part I: Communicating Development and Social Change

1 Development Communication and Social Change in Historical Context

The Commodifications of Participation

The Cooption and Redemption of Participation in a Digital Era

The Contributions of Communication Rights Movements to CSC Theory: The Right to Information Movement in India and Voice

Public Hearings, Participation, Voice

CSC Theory and the Need to Account for Networks and Structures


2 Globalization and Development1

The Formation of the Paradoxes


Communications as Development and Globalization




3 Political Economy of Development

The History of Political Economy

Political Economy and Communication: The Cultural Imperialism Controversy

The Institutional Matrix of the Development Industry

Issues for Political Economic Research


4 Advocacy Communication


Political Foundations of Development

Communication for Social Justice




Communication about Social Justice

Future Research


5 Equality and Human Rights

Human Rights and Equality

Equality in the International Debates on Information and Communication

WSIS and the Global Digital Divide

Social Communication and Equality

Equality in Communication Rights

Human Survival and Social Communication




6 Public Health

Public Health is Optimistic

Public Health is an Optimistic Call to Action

Public Health as an Optimistic Call for Change (and Violence)


Areas for Future Research in Development Communication


7 Indigenous Communication

Dangerous Rights: Communication and Diversity

Media Diversity Matters

Media and Discrimination

International Agreements

From Regulation to Observatories

Community Media: The Voice of Interculturality

Not a Conclusion


8 Communication, Development, and the Natural Environment


Nature and the Environment in a Development Context

Modernization and Transfer of Technology

Sustainable Development and Participatory Approaches

Communication in Support of Sustainable Management of the Natural Resource Base

Conclusion: Making Communication Count


9 Emerging Issues in Communicating Development and Social Change

Historical and Global Contexts

Political and Economic Structures

Development Discourse

Social Justice


Part II: Developing Strategic Communication for Social Change

10 The Strategic Politics of Participatory Communication

Strategic Communication in the Persuasion Paradigm

The Participatory Critique of Strategic Communication

Communication and Collective Strategic Action

Problem Definition

Goal Selection

Strategic Junctures


People’s Motivations for Change



11 Rethinking Entertainment-Education for Development and Social Change

Three Claims

Methodology for Our Review of Recent Academic Output on Entertainment-Education

Research Trends in Edutainment

The Known Story of Entertainment-Education

The Unknown Story of Entertainment-Education

The Paradigm Shift: From Communication for Development to Communication for Social Change

Critiques of Entertainment-Education

New Theoretical Perspectives


12 Storytelling for Social Change

Narrative in Behavior Change Communication

Jerome Bruner: Narrative in Processes of Cultural Change

Narrative in the Cultivation of Critical Consciousness

Narrative, Voice and Representation in Processes of Social Change

Scenarios from Africa



13 Theater for Development

Historical and Cultural influences on TfD

Educational Institutes and the Birth of Theater for Development

TfD, Patronage, and Ideology

Recent Tendencies in TfD



14 Media Development

Conceptualizing Media Development

Tensions and Commonalities between Media Development and Communication for Development

Media Development: An Attempt at Categorization

Some Trends Shaping the Future of Media Development

A New Framework is Required


15 Economics and Communication for Development and Social Change

C4D Paradigms and Economic Issues

New Millennium, New Goals, and Development Economics

The Methodologies of “Success” in Development

Microfinance, Markets, and Entrepreneurship



16 Peace Communication for Social Change

Communication and Change at the Heart of Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution

Transforming Conflicts to Transform Societies

Communication for Social Change in Fragile and Conflict Contexts

Final Considerations



17 Social and Behavior Change Communication

Theoretical Basis of the C-Change Framework

SBCC Framework: Three Characteristics

Experiences in Applying SBCC Approaches

Conclusions on the Evaluation of SBCC Approaches

Conclusion on the Sustainability of SBCC Approaches

Moving Forward



18 A Participatory Framework for Researching and Evaluating Communication for Development and Social Change

Evaluation and Communication for Development and Social Change

Participatory Evaluation Approaches

Complexity-Based Approaches to Social Change

Critical Perspectives on Participation

Participatory Framework for Evaluating Communication for Development

The Seven Framework Components

Implementing the Framework

Current Trends in Development Evaluation

Systems Thinking and Relationships

Complexity Theory and Contexts

Further Development and Application of the Framework

In Conclusion



19 Emerging Issues in Strategic Communication for Development and Social Change

Rethinking Old Tensions in the Field

Rethinking Storytelling for Empowerment and Social Change

Broadening the Frontiers of Communication for Development and Social Change

Evaluating Communication for Development from a Complexity Perspective


Part III: Activist Approaches for Development and Social Change

20 Social Movement Media in the Process of Constructive Social Change

A Multiplicity of Terms

“Community” media

“Networked” Movement Media

“Social Movement” Media

Concluding Reflections

Author’s note



21 Transnational Civil Society and Social Movements

Global Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Social Movements

Network Forms of Organization: Transnational Advocacy Networks and the Global Justice Movement

The Internet and Patterns of Transnational Networking

The Rise of Individuals? Social Media, Hybrid Organizations, and New Movements

Research Challenges and Emerging Questions

Concluding Remarks



22 Communication for Transparency and Social Accountability

Social Accountability: The Demand Side of Good Governance

Communication Approaches and Techniques to Support Social Accountability Mechanisms

ICT Facilitated Communication for Social Accountability as e-Participation

Experiences from the Ground and Need for Further Research



23 Citizens’ Journalism

Chantal Mouffe’s Radical Democracy

Public Journalism, Citizens’ Journalism, and Mouffe’s Notion of “The Political”

Mouffe’s “Citizenship”

Citizens’ Media

Public Journalism and Citizens’ Journalism

Public Journalism and Collective Construction

From Public Journalism to Citizens’ Journalism

Emerging Challenges



24 Citizens’ Media

Watching, a New Paradigm for Social Inclusion in Society

Watching: Ethical Commitment to What We Ought to Be

A Citizen’s Practice to Learn Democracy from the Act of Watching

Watching to Change: Between Rights and Responsibilities

Brief History of the Veeduría

A Voluntary and Participatory Movement with No Representation: The Quest for Consensus

The Opportunity to Influence Supply and Demand

New Horizons of Watching to Believe: Media Ethics and Relaunch of the Veeduria



25 Community Radio

Brief History of Community Radio

Defining Community Radio

The Role of Community Radio

Community Radio and New Media

Challenges to Community Radio




26 Youth-Generated Media

Traditions of Thinking about Youth and Media

From Youth Media to Youth-Generated Media

A Framework for Youth-Generated Media (a Spectrum)

Future Research and Challenges



27 Video for Change

Bridging Theories and Practices of Video Activism

Connecting the Histories of Video Activism: The Short Story of a Long History

Radical Online Video: Understanding Video Activism within the Mechanism of Social Media

The Changing Spaces of Video Activism: Challenges and Ethical Concerns



28 Emerging Issues in Activism and Social Change Communication

From Alternative Media to Social Movement Media

Organizing Social Movements and Civic Engagement Using Media and Communication

Civic Engagement Forms Using Media and Communication





Global Handbooks in Media and Communication Research

Series Editor: Annabelle Sreberny (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)

Advisory Board

Marjan De Bruin (Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica)

John Downing (Southern Illinois University, USA)

Pradip Thomas (University of Queensland and the Center for Communication and Social Change, Australia)

Helena Sousa (University of Minho, Portugal)

The Global Handbooks in Media and Communication Research series is co-published by Wiley Blackwell and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). The series offers definitive, state-of-the-art handbooks that bring a global perspective to their subjects. These volumes are designed to define an intellectual terrain: its historic emergence; its key theoretical paradigms; its transnational evolution; key empirical research and case study exemplars; and possible future directions.

Already published

The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications, edited by Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock, and Helena Sousa

The Handbook of Global Media and Communication Policy, edited by Robin Mansell and Marc Raboy

The Handbook of Media Audiences, edited by Virginia Nightingale

The Handbook of Development Communication and Social Change, edited by Karin Gwinn Wilkins, Thomas Tufte, and Rafael Obregon

About the IAMCR

The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) ( was established in Paris in 1957. It is an accredited NGO attached to UNESCO. It is a truly international association, with a membership representing over 80 countries around the world and conferences held in different regions that address the most pressing issues in media and communication research. Its members promote global inclusiveness and excellence within the best traditions of critical research in the field. The current president of the IAMCR is Janet Wasko.


Notes on Contributors

Rosa Maria Alfaro Moreno is Professor of Communication at the Universidad de Lima, Peru. Founder (in 1983) and former director of the Association of Social Communicators, “Calandria,” and founder of the Civic Observatory of Social Communication, she has also authored or edited 10 books and contributed numerous articles in communication and development issues.

Tina Askanius works in the Department of Communication and Media at Lund University. Her research concerns social movement media practices, with a particular focus on contemporary forms of video activism in online environments. Her recent work within this area has been published in international journals such as Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change and Interface: A journal for and about social movements.

Antje Becker-Benton has led a global SBCC portfolio as Deputy Director of C-Change at FHI360. Over the past 17 years, she has designed health communication programs with key affected youth and adult populations in multiple countries in East and Southern Africa for CCP, FHI360, and GTZ. Her publications include “Guide to Community Health Communication” (GTZ 1997), Strategic Communication in the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (Sage 2004) and “Communication and the antiretroviral treatment rollout” in AIDS Education and Prevention (2009).

Emily Bockh has managed over eight years of experience in international health communication. She manages SBCC activities and contributed to the development, testing, and implementation of tools and curricula including the C-Modules and other research reports for C-Change. She has also provided technical and operational support to programs in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and Pakistan.

Tanja Bosch is a lecturer and researcher in the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She teaches radio journalism, health communication, and qualitative research methods. Her areas of research and publication include talk radio, community media, and youth and gendered uses of mobile media and online social networks.

Colin Tinei Chasi is Senior Lecturer and Head of Communication Studies, University of Johannesburg. He works on philosophical aspects of communication that concern health and development.

James Deane is Director of Policy and Learning at BBC Media Action. This article is written in his personal capacity and should not necessarily be taken to reflect the views of BBC Media Action.

John D.H. Downing is professor emeritus and founding director of the Global Media Research Center in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, Southern Illinois University. His books include Radical Media (1984/2001), Internationalizing Media Theory (1996), Representing “Race” (2005, with Charles Husband) and the Sage Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media (2010).

Daniel Enger coordinates the Scenarios from Africa HIV communication process for the British non-profit organization Global Dialogues. Scenarios from Africa involves the production of short fiction films on HIV-related themes by leading African directors. The films are based on winning ideas contributed by young Africans to continent-wide scriptwriting contests.

Ana Fernández Viso works in the Institute of Communication at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. Her research interests include citizen journalism, community development, and communication for development and social change.

Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron is a writer, filmmaker, journalist, photographer, and development communication specialist. He is the author of several books on film and communication for social change, as well as documentary films, photographic exhibits, and hundreds of articles in journals. He has worked in five continents on social development projects, as a communication for development specialist.

Cees J. Hamelink is Emeritus Professor of International Communication at the University of Amsterdam. He is currently Professor for Technology and Information Management at the University of Aruba, and Professor of Human Rights and Public Health at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. He is also the editor-in-chief of the International Communication Gazette and Honorary President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research. He is author of 17 monographs on communication, culture, and human rights. Professor Hamelink has received lifetime achievement awards from various international organizations and has been a consultant to many national governments and agencies in the UN system.

Anastasia Kavada is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Westminster. Her research concerns the use of new communication technologies, such as email lists and social media, by protest movements and advocacy groups. Her work has appeared in a variety of edited books and academic journals, including Media, Culture & Society and Information, Communication & Society.

David Kerr is a lecturer and author on African theater and media. He has taught at the Universities of Malawi, Zambia, and Botswana. He is the author of African Popular Theatre from Pre-Colonial to Modern Times (Heinemann, 1995) and Dance, Media Entertainment and Popular Theatre in South East Africa (Bayreuth University Press, 1997), and has directed numerous productions.

Joe F. Khalil is an associate professor in residence at Northwestern University and a leading expert on Arab television. He is author of a monograph on Arab satellite entertainment television and co-author of Arab Television Industries. Khalil’s scholarly interests revolve specifically around Arab youth, alternative media, and global media industries.

June Lennie is a Senior Research Associate in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Australia. Over the past 20 years her work has focused on the development, application and meta-evaluation of participatory research and evaluation methodologies and ICTs for social change, sustainable community development, and rural women’s empowerment. She has co-developed several participatory evaluation frameworks and methodologies, toolkits and evaluation resources, including a UN inter-agency resource pack on researching, monitoring and evaluating communication for development.

Emile G. McAnany is a professor at Santa Clara University in California. His work in communication and social change spans four decades and his publications include the recent Saving the World (2012) in addition to Mass Media and Free Trade (1996) and seven other books. He has focused much of his research on Latin America.

Neill McKee was the Director of C-Change at FHI360 and a communication specialist with 35 years of experience in international development, working for CUSO, IDRC, UNICEF, and CCP. He developed the Meena Communication Initiative for the South Asian girl child and is the author of Social Mobilization and Social Marketing in Developing Communities (1992), co-editor and co-author of Involving People, Evolving Behavior (2000), and co-author of Strategic Communication in the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (Sage, 2004).

Toby Miller is Distinguished Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. You can follow his adventures at

Ana María Miralles is a professor at the School of Social Science, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Medellín, Colombia). She has written several books, including: Voces Ciudadanas, Una idea de periodismo público (2000), Periodismo, opinión pública y agenda ciudadana (2001), Comunicación para el desarrollo urbano (2004), Periodismo Público en la gestión del riesgo (2009), and El miedo al disenso (2011).

Rafael Obregon is Chief of the Communication for Development Section, United Nations Children’s Fund, New York, and has extensive teaching, research, and professional experience in development and health communication and in international development. He is a member of the review board of several journals, including the Journal of Health Communication, and serves as guest reviewer of Social Science Medicine, Health Policy Journal, and Biomedcentral. He is also a member of several international associations, including the International Communication Association, and has published numerous books, peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports, including The Handbook of Global Health Communication (2012), co-edited with Silvio Waisbord.

James Pamment is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden. His research is primarily in the fields of public diplomacy and international development, with a focus on the relationship between policy, organization, and accountability. He is the author of New Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century: A Comparative Study of Policy and Practice (Routledge New Diplomacy Studies, 2012) and has published in journals such as The Hague Journal of Diplomacy and the Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. He holds a PhD from Stockholm University (2011). This research was conducted with the support of a grant from the Swedish Research Council, dnr 350-2012-343.

Clemencia Rodríguez is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Oklahoma. Her books include Citizens’ Media Against Armed Conflict: Disrupting Violence in Colombia (2011) and Fissures in the Mediascape: An International Study of Citizens’ Media (2001)

Jo Tacchi is Deputy Dean of Research and Innovation at RMIT University. She specializes in research on radio and new media. Trained as a social anthropologist, with a Masters degree from the University of Sussex and a PhD from University College London, Jo has contributed to a growing field of media anthropology and media ethnography. Jo is an Associate Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology, and a Fellow of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.

Pradip Ninan Thomas is Co-Director, Centre for Communication & Social Change, University of Queensland, Brisbane. He has written widely on issues related to Communication and Social Change and has recently completed a three volume series with Sage on the media in India.

Thomas Tufte is Professor of Communications at Roskilde University and Senior Research Associate at Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg. He is currently director of the research program “People Speaking Back? Media, Empowerment and Democracy in East Africa” as well as founder and co-director of the bi-national “Orecomm Research Center on Communication and Glocal Change.” He is extensively involved in networks with African and Latin American researchers working on media use, citizenship, and empowerment. Thomas has written, co-authored, or edited 12 books and more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters in fields including communication for social change, health communication, and media ethnography.

Elske van de Fliert is Co-Director at the Centre for Communication and Social Change, The University of Queensland. Previously, she worked in research, development, and teaching positions in a range of Asian and African countries. Her research interests are participatory development communication and impact assessment of sustainable rural development.

Silvio Waisbord is Professor and Associate Director in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. He is the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics, and author of Reinventing Professional Journalism (Polity, forthcoming). His areas of interest are journalism and politics, and media and communication in aid, development, and social change.

Norbert Wildermuth is associate professor at the Department of Communication, Business and IT at Roskilde University, Denmark. He participates in the “ØRECOMM Centre for Communication and Glocal Change,” the research project “People Speaking Back? Media, Democracy and Empowerment in East Africa” (2009–2013), and the capacity building project “e-Governance in Bhutan” (2012–2014).

Karin Gwinn Wilkins serves as Professor of Media Studies, Associate Director with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Chair, Global Studies Bridging Disciplines Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Wilkins has won numerous awards for her research, service, and teaching. Her work addresses scholarship in the fields of development communication, global communication, and political engagement.

Kate Winskell is an Assistant Professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health of Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. In her research she seeks to understand how young Africans make sense of HIV through the analysis of their fictional narratives and thereby to inform communication programming.

Series Editor’s Preface

Welcome to the Global Handbooks in Media and Communication Research series. This grew out of the idea that the field needed a series of state-of the-art reference works that was truly international. The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), with a membership from over 80 countries, is uniquely positioned to offer a series that covers the central concerns of media and communications theory in a global arena.

Each of these substantial books contains newly written essays commissioned from a range of international authors, showcasing the best critical scholarship in the field. Each is pedagogical in the best sense, accessible to students and clear in its approach and presentation. Theoretical chapters map the terrain of an area both historically and conceptually, providing incisive overviews of arguments in the field. The examples of empirical work are drawn from many different countries and regions, so that each volume offers rich material for comparative analysis.

These handbooks are international in the best sense: in scope, authorship and mindset. They explore a range of approaches and issues across different political and cultural regions, reflecting the global reach of the IAMCR. The aim is to offer scholarship that moves away from simply reproducing Westcentric models and assumptions. The series formulates new models and asks questions that bring communication scholarship into a more comprehensive global conversation.

The IAMCR ( was established in Paris in 1957. It is an accredited NGO attached to UNESCO. It is a truly international association, with a membership around the world and conferences held in different regions that address the most pressing issues in media and communication research. Its members promote global inclusiveness and excellence within the best traditions of critical research in the field.

This series supports those goals.

Annabelle Sreberny
Past President of IAMCR and Series Editor
London, December 2010


While many people have inspired our work in the field as well as our dedication to this Handbook, we particularly want to thank our students, colleagues, and families for their encouragement, and the many activists and citizens who devote themselves to social change.

A very particular thanks goes to all the contributors – we are so thankful to each of you for sharing your experiences and insights. Without your contributions, there would have been no book.

The International Association for Media and Communication Research needs to be thanked for its institutional commitment to social change, particularly Annabelle Sreberny for her own inspiring work and her support of this project. We sincerely appreciate the enthusiasm and insight Elizabeth Swayze of Wiley Blackwell shared with us in the early conceptualization of this work. Hazel Harris has been helpful, diligent, and patient during completion of the editing of these chapters. A special word of thanks to Claudia Nieto, Ohio University, for her support with translating into English those chapters that were originally submitted in Spanish.


Karin Gwinn Wilkins, Thomas Tufte, and Rafael Obregon

This Handbook of Development Communication and Social Change offers a valuable resource for advocates, scholars, and communities engaged in long-term and comprehensive struggles for social justice. The strategic use of communication and media as tools and processes to articulate and propel social, cultural, and political change has increased over the years. Globally we are witnessing a consolidation and expansion of the communication used strategically in development organizations (McKee, Bertrand, and Becker-Benton 2004); a very strong activist driven use of communication for the purposes of social mobilization and political transformation (Rodríguez 2001); and more specific media-focused uses of communication advocating social and political change (Downing 2010). While these streams generally typify the field of communication for development and social change today, they seem to have separate niches in the academic literature and in their application. By bringing together these themes, we aim to transcend misleading binaries separating artificial political boundaries of developed from developing, social categories of modern from traditional, communicative approaches of mediated from interpersonal, toward a more comprehensive approach, rarely offered in academic publications. Beyond the inherent value of producing a text that brings together various contributions that reflect these areas, we argue that that there is a need for a book that attempts to bridge the apparent divide among these perspectives. Instead of compartmentalizing strategic development interventions without a sense of context, composing critique of development without grounded observation, or considering activist communication solely within the confines of those with access to resources, we propose this text as an integrated framework toward understanding the nature of communication for development and social change, as well as new directions for the field. Given recent synergies and processes, media development, social mobilization, and political change have come together in ways that illustrate a growing role for activist communication across the globe. These processes of agency and participation are posing growing challenges to the established paradigms within development communication, inviting us not only to outline established paradigms, but also to chart emerging trends within development communication.

Although there are several valuable published volumes offering overviews of social movements (such as those edited by Downing 2010; Rodríguez, Kidd, and Stein 2009), and of development and social change (Hemer and Tufte 2005; Gumucio-Dagron and Tufte 2006; Wilkins and Enghel 2012), as well as these issues within the broader rubric of global communication (Wilkins, Straubhaar, and Kumar 2013), this book fills a critical niche by offering a comprehensive framework in a growing area of research and action, as social movements and organizations make strategic use of communication technologies and processes in a complex world of dominant global industries and oppressive political regimes. Recognizing a changing global context, this work integrates the interests of many of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) sections, including that of participatory communication, health communication, community communication, communication policy and technology, gender and communication, political communication, and political economy.

Through this handbook we wish to represent and examine this proliferation of approaches to communication, media, development, and social change, providing a general overview of the existing conceptual and practical strands within this field, as well as offering critical analysis and identifying promising directions for future research and intervention. Communication approaches to development and social change engage critical reflections of discourse and praxis, as well as strategic interventions through the work of the development industry, as well as social movement and activist efforts. The organization of this handbook reflects and integrates the diversity of our field, beginning with a critical articulation of the field’s history, moving toward a reconceptualization that builds on key development themes; assessing strategic intervention approaches; and recognizing activist engagement toward social and political change.

Conceptually, the breadth of communication for and about development as it is known today ranges from a variety of prescriptive forms of strategic communication, be they persuasive or participatory, to much more open communicative processes, where the strategic aspect focuses on facilitating and catalyzing dialogue, debate and participation, building capacity around, and leading processes that the target audiences drive themselves, be it in social movements, in civil society, in public and/or private organizations, and seeking greater individual and collective agency and engagement. Digital media have created new dynamics of interactivity between people and organizations (and governments); they have created new speeds and forms of circulating information and they have thus stimulated many new ways of social organization, mobilization, participation, and activism.

Contributing authors focus on the comprehensive nature of social problems, rather than limiting work to singular evaluations of projects studied without context. By focusing on particular isolated strategies, these evaluations neglect attention to the critical issue being addressed, such as adequate health care, human rights, or gender equity. In order to resolve social justice problems within their historical and situational contexts, research needs to assess a variety of strategies and contextual conditions over time, in order to consider long-term, sustainable solutions.

This handbook offers thoughtful, critical assessments of key issues in the field. Each section includes an overview chapter by one of the editors, reviewing emerging directions. In Part I, we begin with an introduction to the field in its historical context, including attention to globalization, given the critical parameters of economic structures, political alliances, and transnational social trends, as well as post-development contexts. Critical reflections of the field are pronounced through attention to political economy and advocacy. Carrying this attention to what development itself communicates about the nature of problems and their resolution, we address key themes, including social equity with attention to human rights; public health; multiculturalism and indigenous communities; and natural resources and the environment.

The next two sections of the book examine the strategic work of development institutions (Part II) and of social movements (Part III). In our attempts to understand strategic interventions for development as comprehensive approaches, we include chapters devoted to broad issues such as campaigns, media development, and participatory communication, followed by more specific strategies including commonly practiced development approaches using story telling, entertainment education, theater for development, music, and social entrepreneurship, along with their theoretical frameworks.

Given that a key intention of this volume is to integrate recognition of social movement strategies with development, the third section offers critical attention to social movement strategies using communication and media to promote social and political change. These efforts are similar to those depicted in Part II in that they attempt to use communication for strategic social change, yet they differ in critical ways. In contrast to the institutionally driven programs implemented through the development industry described in the previous group, this section recognizes social movement strategies that are initiated through the work of communities, at times resisting development, while at other times working in parallel or even with little connection to mainstream development practice. These chapters address the organizing and communicative practice of social movements; transnational civil society; social media activism; social accountability; citizens’ media and journalism; citizen observatories; community media; youth-generated media; and video activism.


Downing, J. (ed) (2010). Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gumucio-Dagron, A. and Tufte, T (eds) (2006). Communication for Social Change. Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. South Orange, NJ: Communication for Social Change Consortium.

Hemer, O. and Tufte, T (eds) (2005). Media and Glocal Change: Rethinking Communication for Development. Göteborg: Nordicom.

McKee, N., Bertrand, J., and Becker-Benton A. (2004). Strategic Communication in the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. London: Sage.

Rodríguez, C. (2001). Fissures in the Mediascape. An International Study of Citizen’s Media. New York: Hampton Press.

Rodríguez, C., Kidd, D. and Stein, L. (eds) (2009). Making Our Media: Global Initiatives Toward a Democratic Public Sphere. New York: Hampton Press.

Wilkins, K. and Enghel, F. (eds) (2012). Glocal Times, Special Issue of Nordicom Review: Mobilizing Communication Globally: For What and For Whom? Göteborg: Nordicom.

Wilkins, K., Straubhaar, J., and Kumar, S. (eds) (2013). New Agendas in Global Communication. New York: Routledge.

Part I

Communicating Development and Social Change


Development Communication and Social Change in Historical Context

Pradip Ninan Thomas

At any given time, there is a great variety of theoretical and practical approaches in development communications/communications and social change (CSC). Broadly speaking, development communication/communications and social change is about understanding the role played by information, communication, and the media in directed and nondirected social change. It also includes a variety of practical applications based on the mainstreaming of communication as “process” and the leveraging of media technologies in social change. This chapter will specifically deal with development communication/communications for social change from the perspective of communication rights and will include a section on “Voice” making a difference in the context of the “Right to Information” movement in India. In the pedagogy of CSC, we are accustomed to contrasting the “dominant paradigm” and, in particular, its assumptions related to the role of communication in social change along with its preferred methods with that of the participatory school that emerged in the late 1960s, since then becoming global in scope. In its practice, however, it is clear that mixed approaches characterize field applications of CSC and that participation in itself means different things to different people. This has resulted in a variety of participations that can be plotted on the typology that Arnstein created in the late 1960s, ranging from the maximalist to the minimalist.

One of the perennial issues in CSC is whether or not it has an identity that it can call its own and a tradition of theorization that makes it distinctive from other areas in communications. The theorization of CSC has always been dependent on borrowings from other disciples – from rural sociology that provided the basis for the diffusion model to the radical pedagogy best illustrated by the contributions made by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. CSC theorization has also been shaped by a great variety of “isms” and schools of thought, including Marxism, feminist theory, post-colonial and subaltern theories, identity theory, globalization, social movement theory, and information and communications technology (ICT) for development theories. In recent times, social networking and urban interventions have also contributed to shaping the practice of CSC, although this is yet to be reflected in its theory. While one can argue that these many borrowings and traditions of interdisciplinarity have contributed to the shaping of CSC as a field and to its dynamism, it is also clear that a consequence of these many influences is the existence of a variety of fault lines – between theory and practice, between technology and the social, policy and the implementation of policy, the global and the local, technocratic and managerial approaches versus endogenous, people-centered approaches. In other words, at any given time, the field is characterized by a variety of disjunctures. In spite of the evidence of quantum, what seems to be the case is that the “practical horse” has bolted leaving the “theoretical cart” behind. In other words these literally thousands of initiatives, learnings, and experiences are yet to become foundational material for an explication of theory reflective of, and conversant with, local realities. It would seem that the advent of the “participatory” model stymied further theoretical innovation given that this was interpreted as the “Holy Grail” that would usher in the promised land characterized by communications for all. Key words such as development, participation, social capital, poverty reduction, civil society and empowerment, among others, have an auratic power that disallows any form of questioning. Issue 4–5 of volume 17 of the journal Development in Practice is devoted to a deconstruction of such key words and Andrea Cornwall, in an article entitled “Buzzwords and fuzzwords: Deconstructing development discourse,” makes the following observation:

Development’s buzzwords are not only passwords to funding and influence … The word development itself … has become a ‘modern shibboleth, an unavoidable password’, which comes to be used ‘to convey the idea that tomorrow things will be better, or that more is necessarily better’ … the very taken-for-granted quality of ‘development’ leaves much of what is actually done in its name unquestioned. (Cornwall 2007: 471)

Enclosures are rather unfortunately a characteristic of this rush to invest words with value and this is best illustrated by the fact that the very phrase “communication for social change” was slated for trademarking by a non-profit organization in the USA. What seems to be missing in this situation is any serious theorizing that is grounded in context and that is conversant with local categories.

This chapter will explore critical issues related to the theorizing of communication and social change. In brief, the history of theory in this area is largely made up of two distinct traditions: (1) the dominant paradigm associated with Everett Rogers, Daniel Lerner, and Wilbur Schramm and (2) the participatory/multiplicity model associated with a number of scholars. A recent account of that history is Emile McAnany’s (2012) Saving the World: A Brief History of Communication for Development and Social Change. The dominant paradigm and in particular the tradition associated with Rogers – the diffusion of innovations – has been critiqued for its top-down nature although arguably this model remains global. The dominant paradigm is also associated with a strongly “behaviorist” emphasis at the expense of “structures” and this focus on change at the level of the individual remains persistent and paramount. While the participatory model and its emphasis on communication as process does have its merits; in reality there are different traditions of participation, some that are more inclusive than others. Terms such as the role of communications in empowerment, access to communication, and participation as process were articulated by proponents of this model. Rather than deal with the history of theorizing in this area, it will deal with contemporary deficits in the theorizing of CSC and explore three possible avenues for the reinvigoration of CSC theory: (1) the possibilities for understanding conceptual categories such as participation in and through digital interventions such as the Free and Open Source movement and digital labor, (2) attempts to understand CSC theory through the lens provided by communication rights movements (the example of the Right to Information movement in India is given in order to explore validation of local processes of participation and Voice through the mechanism of Public Hearings), and (3) the need for CSC theory to converse with Actor Network Theory linked to a critical political economy of communications toward an understanding of the role played by power/knowledge in the creation and maintenance of networks of power involved in CSC policymaking.

The Commodifications of Participation

An obvious starting place to explore these dislocations is to begin with the multi-accentual nature of concepts such as participation, access, and Voice that is contextually defined and that offers many meanings to many people and many opportunities for practice. Even within civil society interventions related to CSC, these concepts are routinely invoked by different organizations – from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF to the World Bank, and organizations such as AMARC, APC, and WACC. Participation is influenced by political economy and by different visions of utopia, of orderings of the world. A critical, political economy inspired approach offers the means to explore communications and social change in terms of its shapings by structures, ideologies, and power flows. The Slovenian social philosopher Slavoj Žižek in his book First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, in a critique of capitalism and a call to the “left” to reinvent itself, includes an interesting critique of the embrace of “cultural capitalism” that also offers the possibility for a redemption through consumption. He uses the example of a Starbucks coffee advertisement that sells a “coffee ethic” through linking consumption of coffee to Fair Trade, ethical investment, and the enjoyment of good “coffee karma”, thereby enhancing our enjoyment of feel-good consumptive practices. As he points out:

The “cultural” surplus is … spelled out: the price is higher than elsewhere since what you are really buying is the “coffee ethic” which includes care for the environment, social responsibility towards the producers, plus a place where you yourself can participate in communal life … (Žižek 2009: 53–54)

The upshot of our involvement in such circuits of cultural consumption is that we end up contributing to initiatives that are destined to forever deal with the symptoms of poverty but never with its causes, which include unjust trade practices, poverty and exploitation, the issue of land, and so on. Participation in this utopia is limited precisely because it does not give either the producer or consumer the opportunity to take part in an exercise of freedom. It is very similar to the “slacktivist” cultures that are rife in the era of social networking. This is a culture that encourages people to click and contribute to online polls and issues but that does not enable an engagement with real issues in the world of the here and now. NGOs, for the most part, tend to replicate the logic of neoliberalism and participation therefore tends to become the means for extending the project of neoliberalism through enabling people to participate in a variety of forms of “compassionate capitalism.”