Institutionalizing social mobilization as a change process

By Staff on September 08, 2015


Social mobilization in action in Senegal. Photo: Tostan.

In the latest issue of Media Development, Steven Sam writes that in the past decades, the theory of communication for social change (CSC) has shifted from top-down flows of communication to a model where a horizontal, citizen-led participatory communication process has become the basis for leveraging social change.

The underlining conceptualization of this new era of communication process embraces social change as a dialogical process that involves engaging, listening and amplifying the voices of stakeholders into their own change agenda, writes Sam, who is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Communication and Social Change in the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland, Australia.

At the same time, large development organizations such as the U.N. and World Bank have embraced and institutionalized CSC into their development policies. However, a recent book notes that there is critical concern that the neoliberal logic within these organizations has subjected CSC theories and practices to mere “behavioral communication and instrumentalist leveraging of information and communication.”

The principles guiding CSC practices at these institutions are largely driven by an “invited system-driven space” for communication, Sam notes. Citizens are invited to engage in some kind of participatory process, often described in participatory communication literature as “lip service.”

A new development has been the emergence of neo-Marxist revolutionists across developing nations with their own new bottom-up CSC practices in the form of a new social mobilization; the popular example being the Arab Spring movements.

The new social mobilization is based on the creation of an informal and non-institutional space propagated largely by digital media technology against the backdrop of challenging power inequity to leverage political and socio-economic opportunities, Sam observes

The communication principles and practices are not academic approaches to CSC, nor are they associated with development agencies communication process, which is usually tied to project of program cycles, Sam writes, citing current analysis in the field.

To read the full article, including how such a disconnect “opens new opportunity for not only deliberating on the underlying conceptual argument(s) that drives the communication process in the new social mobilization, but also further interrogating whether such new forms of CSC practices create an opportunity or challenge the institutionalization of genuine citizen-led CSC process in large development organizations,” click here to subscribe to Media Development.

By Staff| September 08, 2015
Categories:  News

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