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1. Information and communication for NRM: An overview

Ma. Theresa H. Velasco

This first chapter of this sourcebook will enable you to:

1. Narrate how the view of communication has evolved over the years;
2. Discuss the role of communication in development; and
3. List and describe six phases in participatory communication planning in development.

Communication is an important component of any development program, natural resources management (NRM) included.

The training process focuses on getting the participants to understand basic principles and concepts about communication for development:

The issue nowadays is no longer whether communication can influence behavior. Now the issue is how to sharpen our understanding of how communication could do a better job. Communication is indeed an investment, not an extravagance (JHU/CCP 1997).


Over the years, people's views of communication have evolved from the linear to the transactional to the convergence models. The historical perspective is one way of looking at such evolution.

The earliest view was of communication being a purely unidirectional activity, best exemplified by Aristotle's model.

Here, communication is viewed as a simple, one-way transmission of messages from a source to a receiver with the intention of producing some effect just like shooting an arrow into a non-moving target. The desired effect is to convince the listeners to the speaker's point of view, which is very much a source-dominated description of communication. For example, the traditional view is for an extension worker to go into the village and share with the farmers the latest NRM-related technology through straight lectures.

With the concept of feedback came the transactional way of looking at communication. If people can exchange information, give reactions to messages, provide feedback to the other person, then a transaction is happening. Communication now has shifted from Aristotle's monologue to the models which can be described as examples of dialogue.

Communication in this respect becomes two-way and interactive. The example of the extension worker going to the village to share the latest NRM-related technology still holds, except that feedback from the farmers is now given emphasis.

The latest view, forwarded by Kincaid (1997), considers communication as a process in which the participants create and share information with one another in order to reach mutual understanding. The adjectives that best describe the convergence nature of communication are iterative and cyclical.

For instance, two persons exchange roles as source or receiver of information no matter how long it takes for them to understand each other. The exchange is not limited to a single exchange of information and feedback. The critical thing is for the participants in the process to make the same sense out of the topic of discussion, no matter how long the exchange takes place.

The extension worker here, for instance, does not merely lecture to the farmers on the latest technology. She/he sits down with them, facilitates discussion between and among the farmers, mediates during conflicts, and leads everyone towards a common understanding of the technology.

(Kincaid 1997)

Understanding the nature of communication as a process and not just as a simple exchange between source and receiver of messages is the first step towards making the best use of communication for development purposes.


Communication is central to genuine human development. It facilitates participatory development. That is, development made possible by bottom-up approach to development, giving the people a voice in their own journey towards progress. Communication indeed is one of the vital forces that allows for people empowerment.

Participatory development and the role of communication in the process may be illustrated by the analogy of external and internal forces needed for an egg to hatch (Cuyno & Lumanta, 1979).

Heat from the mother hen is an external factor while the natural gestation process is an internal force. The mother hen could be the government helping the people while the natural gestation process is the right timing - based on the situation and the people's readiness - for development to happen in a community.

Communication should be an integral process that facilitates interaction between and among the different forces, the different stakeholders, in the process.

Quebral (2002) described development communication as an art and a science practiced to:

The development communicator has a three-pronged role: that of a facilitator, a mediator, and a consensus-builder.

As a facilitator s/he helps make exchange of ideas between and among the different stakeholders in a development problem easier.

As mediator, s/he acts as intermediary between and among stakeholders, guiding the people towards consensus - collective opinion, harmony, cooperation, unanimity, oneness.


The concept and steps of participatory development communication are discussed in detail by Bessette (2004).

The PDC Process


Communication planning for development is a logical process guided by a systematic and rational framework. This framework could be developed through situation-specific data gathered using participatory research techniques.

Such a framework, in turn, could be the basis of a strategic design that is: a) based on identified focal problems for setting long-term objectives; and b) capable of providing practical guidelines for field applications.

The six phases of participatory communication planning are (SADC CCD 2001 and JHU CCP 1997):

1. Preliminary situation assessment
2. Communication strategy design
3. Participatory design of messages and discussion themes
4. Communication methods and materials development
5. Implementation
6. Evaluation

1. Preliminary situation assessment

Situation assessment could be done most effectively in a participatory manner through PRCA or participatory rural communication appraisal. Three kinds of analysis are done in PRCA: audience analysis, program analysis, and situation analysis.

Audience analysis

Audience analysis is essentially "listening" to what potential users of information need. They are the ones whom the communication program intends to reach. Users of information are also referred to as stakeholders of a communication program. Collecting baseline information about these stakeholders is an essential preliminary step towards developing a communication strategy.

Segmentation, or dividing large groups of stakeholders into smaller groups, helps achieve focus in communication strategy development. Segmentation is usually done in two ways:

Situation analysis

In doing situation analysis, planners look at both the possible problem to be addressed by the communication program and the conditions surrounding such problem. What are the factors which cause a gap between the existing and desired behavior of stakeholders? Is the problem due to the stakeholders' lack of awareness or knowledge of the nature of the problem? Or is it attitudinal in nature? Could the gap be due to their lack of skills to carry out certain practices?

Situation analysis likewise includes assessing the communication resources in the area which could be tapped for the communication program. Knowledge of the area's mass and small media, as well as interpersonal means of communication, should contribute substantially to strategy development.

Program analysis

When doing program analysis, program planners need to take both an inward and an outward look at the situation, that is, looking at the organization's own vision, policies, resources, strengths, and weaknesses relevant to the problem.

Are there adequate resources to realize this vision? How well are program managers using available resources? At the same time, it is important to scan the environment for existing programs that could affect, positively or negatively, the communication strategy to be developed.

2. Communication strategy design

The PRCA data form the foundation of the communication strategy. Data that have been collected need to be analyzed and interpreted carefully as these will serve as bases of the communication strategy.

Communication strategy is the combination of methods, messages, and approaches by which the planner seeks to achieve the communication objectives.

The second phase of the process charts the direction of the communication program. It is at this stage where objectives and the corresponding standards and indicators for monitoring and evaluation are formulated.

The very word strategy suggests a unique combination of techniques or approaches by which to achieve program goals and objectives.

During strategy design formulation, planners also begin thinking of the following:

3. Participatory design of messages and discussion themes

The main activities under the message design phase are selection of message appeals and approaches and selection of communication channels and media. The big challenge at this stage is the development of the big idea or the creative concept around which the whole communication program would revolve.

Professional communication outfits are often tapped to develop messages and communication materials for the above-mentioned processes. The disadvantage of this approach, aside from the huge expense involved, is the lack of participation from the stakeholders themselves.

Involving the stakeholders in message and materials development increases the likelihood that the communication program would help achieve the bigger development goals.

4. Communication methods and materials development

Actual development of communication methods and materials is undertaken once the communication strategy is in place.

A useful reminder to planners concerns the importance of pretesting not only the materials themselves, but also the creative idea and the messages. Pretesting allows for adjustments in the communication activities before substantial time, efforts, and resources are spent on their actual production.

Pretesting measures potential effectiveness of communication messages, methods, and materials in terms of their being able to attract attention, to be understood, to be accepted, and to generate the feeling of self-involvement among the stakeholders.

5. Management and implementation

Management of the organization carrying out the communication program and networking are two of the most important activities in this phase.

A manager's internal task entails preparing or training people for their respective tasks in the organization within a positive organizational climate. The external task calls for forging linkages with key organizations engaged in the same area of development work.

After all the preparatory stages, launching and carrying out the communication campaign or program now takes priority. Together with this come monitoring the process of dissemination, transmission, and reception of program inputs.

The management aspect also covers the management improvement process and the concept of leadership as they affect implementation of communication programs.

6. Evaluation

Although the last step is labeled evaluation, it is not complete without its twin concept of monitoring.

Monitoring enables the planners and implementors to answer the question: Are things going all right? Evaluation, on the other hand, provides answers to the question: So, did it work?

Together, monitoring and evaluation help planners and implementors:

To help gauge program impact on stakeholders, it is important to set up clear standards and indicators based on the objectives set. How much have the activities contributed to achieving objectives of key organizations? This can be gauged by comparing evaluation with baseline data, specifically those gathered during the PRCA.

More importantly, monitoring and evaluation data contribute to planning for program sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Illustration of Impact Assessment (JHU/CCP 1997)


Anyaegbunam, C., P. Mefalopulos, and T. Moetsabi. 1998. Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal: Starting with the People. Harare: SADC Centre of Communication for Development and Rome: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Bessette, Guy. 2004. Involving the Community: A Guide to Participatory Development Communication. Canada: International Development Research Centre. 154 p.

Piotrow, P.T., D.L. Kincaid, J.G. Rimon, and W. Rinehart. 1997. Health Communication: Lessons from Family Planning and Reproductive Health. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs: Praeger Publishers.

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