Communication for Empowerment

Communication for Empowerment (C4E) is one of the practical approaches developed by OGC to address the lack of inclusion and participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups in decision making processes by identifying and meeting their information and communication needs through specific media strategies. OGC, in collaboration with the Communication for Social Change Consortium (CFSC) developed a three year C4E initiative (2007-2010) to pilot test the approach and tools articulated in the Practical Guidance Note on Communication for Empowerment (2006).

The pilot initiative was funded by the UN Democracy Fund and was implemented in partnership with UNDP country offices in Madagascar and Mozambique in 2008 and in Ghana, Nepal and Lao PDR in 2009. The pilots in Lao PDR and Nepal specifically focused on the information and communication needs of Indigenous Peoples and were implemented by the UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok as part of its regional initiative, Indigenous Voices: Communication for Empowerment of Asia’s Indigenous Peoples. Each pilot initiative consisted of three core elements: (i) review of the media context based on the existing research at the national level; (ii) information and communication needs assessments; (iii) programme interventions informed by the findings of the assessment to ensure marginalized and vulnerable groups' participation in decision-making processes.

The final country reports presents the results of the quantitative and qualitative information and communication assessments carried out at the national, district and local level. The reports also present an analysis of the media environment and media penetration and crucially identify gaps in the information and communication flow from the national to the local level and propose recommendations.

The findings from the five pilot countries and key learning from implementing the C4E Initiative are synthesized and presented in the Global Report on Communication for Empowerment (2010). The findings from each of the five pilot countries reveal a number of issues that are common to more than one pilot country, some highlighting emerging trends, and others reinforcing existing knowledge and challenges. But all have important implications for designing appropriate programme interventions to fill information and communication gaps. They include:

  • The dominant role of radio, particularly community radio, as an information medium and potentially a strong communication channel for marginalized and vulnerable groups;
  • The limited confidence and capacity of many people to use media to communicate;
  • Differential access to the media by men and women;
  • The importance of mixing traditional and new information technologies in strategies designed to improve democratic governance and reduce poverty;
  • The importance of a safe public space in providing support and expanding opportunities for communication and participation in decision-making process;
  • The growing importance of mobile telephony;
  • The importance of a supportive legal and regulatory environment for the media.

Overall, the C4E Initiative has helped to widen UNDP conception of Communication for Empowerment. It has evolved from an initial conception as part of UNDP’s Access to Information work- primarily geared to meeting the information and communication needs of the people through specific media strategies- to a more rigorous approach that promotes inclusive participation, empowerment of poor and marginalized people and accountability of the state to its citizens.