Hi everyone. I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you a couple of thoughts about Communication for Social Change, and how it is related to the purpose of this class. I thought this post might also be a way to share some ideas about how to structure blog posts for the course, so I’ll write this post using the first type, the Annotated Link post.
The Impact of Communication on Society
You are all aware of how the media impact our society. From the mis/disinformation spread on social media that has consumed much of our public discourse over the last 6 (or more) years to the large audiences that consume popular media such as music, movies, and – yes – news programming, it’s clear that corporate mass and social media have a generally deleterious effect on our society. Part of this is because media, particularly the mass media, are one-way forms of information with little substantial opportunity for feedback to the senders of media messages. When these media are coupled with the ability to create persuasive, scientifically supported rhetorical events, it can be difficult for media consumers (all of us) to understand how we are being both manipulated and controlled by these media. Additionally, the consolidated ownership of media poses its own challenges and risks to free speech and democracy. While there is – sometimes – a line between editorial and corporate interests in the media, the purpose of corporate ownership of media is profit.
Communication for Social Change is Different
While it may use some of the same platforms, CSC is based on a different set of principles than marketing or corporate media production, even news or “information” content. At least on paper, the primary function of communication for development (C4D), social and behavior change communication (SBCC) and just plain old social and behavior change (SBC) is to fulfill human rights through change. Sometimes this directly involves communication with people at the grassroots, but other times, many times, it involves advocacy around bad policies, lack of infrastructure, or other barriers to change.
The field is also experiencing a change in which the focus isn’t only on communication as a change channel. This article on the EAST framework explains how pro-social behaviors can be encouraged through systematic analysis and application of behavioral science principles, which may or may not include communication.
In any case, whether we are talking about strategic communication, behavioral science, or social psychology, our role as communication for social change designers is not to make money for our corporate overlords, but to contribute to the fulfillment of human rights at the community level. Much (all) of this work is donor supported and while it isn’t perfect in its use of resources or ability to fulfill its mission, it does have the ability to reconfigure mass and social media, particularly in the era of easily accessible digital platforms such as podcasting.
Key Features of CSC – Related Work
It is important to remember that CSC is a process. That means that we don’t create communication or project materials without doing research, design, and testing with our community partners. We can apply the science of communication studies or other fields such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, and public health to the process, and in turn design more effective CSC programs and projects that are responsive to the needs of our communities at the same time encouraging positive changes.
CSC uses models and theories to guide the work. This is related to the science of communication I mentioned above, and is rooted in decades of research, testing, and failure, as well as successes [as an aside, remember that the scientific method is itself based on an expectation of failure (a hypothesis in the scientific method is often fails and only becomes a theory after lots of testing and supportive data). The models and theories we use in CSC help guide research questions, the design of messages and projects, and provide frameworks for starting inquiry into complex social issues.
What I Hope You Take Away
Every course you complete in your degree will include a set of course objectives or outcomes, and I hope that at the end of the course you feel confident in your ability to meet those objectives. With that in mind, there are a couple other ideas that I hope will stick with you after the course is over:
- That good communication, whether done on social media or in person, or in between, is a process that includes research, the application of design principles, and scientific methods, in addition to the art of the creation of communication materials.
- That CSC’s role is to promote human rights and that your role as an effective communicator is to contribute to this role through your effective use of the tools we learned about in the course.
- That there is a distinct and important difference between the media as we typically consider them (news, entertainment, propaganda) and CSC and that using CSC as an approach can have positive impacts when using platforms that we often consider negative, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, cable news, etc.
I also hope you feel confident in your ability to write a blog post – to share your views with the world and your audience – when we have completed the course.
Thanks for reading this post! I look forward to reading your contributions to our class blog, which you can (and should ) follow and contribute to for as long as you like!