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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: March 14 2007 »

Do international development decision-makers value communication?

In the quest for answers, the Knowledge Sharing and Learning project conducted an email survey and an online discussion with known policy makers in the field. Some 150 international participants from a wide variety of sectors took part. APCNews looked into the preliminary report that “summarises the communication processes that are needed to engage with policy makers in order to embed effective information and communication within their development policies and practice.”

Interestingly, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) was listed in the top ten organisations survey respondents identified as networks they find are valuable resources of information relevant to their work.

Apart from the 'Communications Initiative', APC is the only other non-governmental organisation (NGO) making the list. Most others are United Nations agencies and funding organisations.

Behind the study is a consortium led by Gamos, a firm working with the social factors that determine development interventions, organisational development, as well as technology use and transfer. The project was commissioned by the UK government's international development arm DFID, whose ambitious goal is "to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty".

Researcher Dr Nigel Scott of UK-based Gamos told APCNews: "Initial research (Healthlink paper) confirmed the importance of networks when trying to reach policy influencers in specific sectors. It identified over 100 sites that people are already familiar with - it is these sites that we need to liaise with."

He said in an interview that APC was one of the "most commonly mentioned sites" in their initial survey - in the top 10. "So we know that members of our target group already visit your sites!," he added.

Scott mentioned DFID had been asked to identify what might be regarded as "hard" evidence of the impact of communications in development. The team is currently working on this. "Whilst we have identified some interesting materials, we are not yet in a position to draw any 'conclusions' on what evidence of impact exists," he told APCNews.

The background paper however acknowledges that new research and materials are coming to light increasingly. It also said that within the time available it is not possible to sift through the vast amount of material on the topic being generated across the globe.

"Once the portal is up and running (the pilot version is scheduled for April), we will be inviting key people to visit the site - to comment on the foundation of materials that we present. But more importantly, to upload additional materials that users themselves believe are important," Scott said.

Some interesting comments come up in passing from this study. One such comment notes that a key feature of recent examples of social networking is that users have considerable control over content. It goes on citing tools such as Myspace and Wikipedia as just two examples of improvement on that front.

This is in contrast to the "conventional" website design which is authored and edited (and branded) by an owner. In order to achieve a sense of ownership by the community of interest, it proposed that the portal has only "light touch" moderation.

Healthlink UK's paper presenting the programme findings are at:

Author: --- (FN for APCNews)
Contact: fn at apc.org
Source: APCNews
Date: 03/06/2007
Location: GOA, India
Category: Development Resources

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