The Power of Evaluation - Fostering Community Cohesion With Community Media

Originally published at: https://decentered.co.uk/the-power-of-evaluation-fostering-community-cohesion-with-community-media/

Community media projects play a crucial role in promoting social cohesion and empowering communities. These projects provide platforms for shared storytelling, amplify local voices, and foster community engagement. However, to truly understand the impact of these initiatives and demonstrate their value, it is essential to have a robust evaluation strategy in place. In this post I will explore the significance of having an evaluation model for socially cohesive community media projects, which incorporates the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model and the Communication for Development (C4D) model. This resource aims to provide guidance and insights for community media advocates, advanced volunteers, practitioners, and undergraduates.

The Evaluation Model:

1. Asset Identification:
The first step in the evaluation model is identifying the strengths and resources within the community that can be leveraged to promote socially cohesive media. This includes local media outlets, community groups, individuals with media skills, and cultural events that can serve as platforms for shared storytelling.

2. Building Relationships:
Next, it is crucial to build relationships between these assets to create a network of collaborators committed to promoting community cohesion. This can be achieved through regular meetings, workshops, online collaboration platforms, and joint projects.

3. Communication Strategy Development:
Based on the identified assets and established relationships, develop a communication strategy that promotes community cohesion. This may involve creating shared content, highlighting positive stories about community interaction, and challenging divisive narratives.

4. Implement and Monitor:
Implement the communication strategy and closely monitor its impact. This can be done by tracking the reach and engagement of shared content, conducting surveys to measure changes in community attitudes, and using participatory methods to understand the experiences of community members.

5. Participatory Evaluation:
Engage community members in evaluating the effectiveness of the media initiatives. Provide opportunities for feedback, discussion, and suggestions for improvement. The C4D model emphasizes the importance of participatory methods, recognizing that those most affected by an initiative are often best placed to evaluate its success.

6. Continuous Learning and Adaptation:
Use the evaluation results to learn and adapt. Refine the communication strategy, strengthen relationships, and identify new assets. Create a continuous cycle of improvement to ensure that the media initiatives remain effective and responsive to the needs of the community.

Presenting the Evaluation Model: To effectively present the evaluation model to stakeholders, prepare a clear and detailed report that outlines each step of the process and its outcomes. The report should include the following sections:

1. Executive Summary:
A concise overview of the report’s purpose, the evaluation model, key findings, and recommendations. This section provides stakeholders with a quick understanding of the main points.

2. Introduction:
Explain the purpose and objectives of the evaluation model, providing context on the importance of social cohesion and its relationship to community media. Introduce the ABCD and C4D models and why they were chosen for the evaluation.

3. Methodology:
Describe the process used for the evaluation, including asset identification, relationship-building, communication strategy development, implementation and monitoring, participatory evaluation, and continuous learning and adaptation.

4. Findings:
Present the evaluation results in a clear and systematic manner. Utilize charts, graphs, and infographics to make the data easy to understand. Include both quantitative data, such as engagement metrics and survey results, and qualitative data, such as feedback from community members and observations from the evaluation team.

5. Case Studies:
Include a few case studies that highlight the impact of the media initiatives on community cohesion. Share stories of specific projects, testimonials from community members, or showcase impactful media content.

6. Recommendations:
Based on the findings, provide recommendations for improving the media initiatives and the evaluation model. Suggestions may include refining the communication strategy, strengthening relationships, or identifying new assets.

7. Conclusion:
Summarize the main points of the report, emphasizing the importance of the evaluation model for promoting socially cohesive media.

8. Appendices:
Include additional material that supports the report, such as a detailed breakdown of the data, copies of surveys or interview transcripts, or examples of media content produced.

Data Collection: While quantitative data collection may be limited, qualitative methodologies can still provide valuable insights. These approaches align well with the ABCD methodology, which emphasizes the value of qualitative data in understanding community dynamics. The following methods can be used:

1. Community Conversations and Story Circles:
Organize gatherings where community members share their experiences, ideas, and perspectives, providing insights into social cohesion and the role of media initiatives.

2. Interviews:
Conduct semi-structured interviews with community stakeholders to gain a more in-depth understanding of their perceptions and experiences related to the media initiatives.

3. Content Analysis:
Perform a qualitative content analysis of media output to identify themes and narratives that relate to community cohesion.

4. Reflective Journals:
Encourage media group members to keep reflective journals, providing valuable insights into day-to-day workings and impact on community cohesion.

5. Feedback Mechanisms:
Establish simple feedback mechanisms for community members to share their thoughts and experiences.

6. Participatory Evaluation Sessions:
Hold sessions where community members can reflect on the media initiatives and discuss their impact, fostering open dialogue and collective decision-making.

7. Informal Observations:
Make informal observations about community dynamics and the impact of media initiatives during everyday interactions and community events.

Having an evaluation strategy for social gain is crucial for demonstrating the value and impact of community media projects. By incorporating the ABCD and C4D models into the evaluation process, we can create media initiatives that are socially cohesive, sustainable, inclusive, and deeply rooted in the community. By presenting our findings in a clear and detailed report and utilizing qualitative data collection methods, we can effectively communicate the significance of our work to stakeholders. Let us strive to create meaningful media projects that promote social cohesion and empower our communities.

Notes about ABCD:

The ABCD model is a community-driven approach to sustainable, economic development. It focuses on identifying and mobilizing the assets or resources available in a community to benefit residents. The work of ABCD begins by helping a community identify the local assets they possess that can match and address their local needs. ABCD builds on the skills of residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions. The guiding principles of ABCD include addressing social and economic issues by building on the strengths and assets of the community. ABCD encourages community members to strengthen relationships by interacting with each other, rather than being at the centre of the development process. The basic idea of ABCD is to map the assets within a community, invest in those assets, and become more powerful together. By identifying and building connections, a community can network, learn, build, and increase output of social capital. Individuals, associations, and institutions are key assets that can improve the social and economic conditions of their communities and strengthen their neighbourhoods overall.

Here are five articles that explain and illustrate the benefits of an Asset-Based Community Development Model (ABCD):

1. “The Impact of Asset-Based Community Development” explains that ABCD ensures that communities can grow stronger and more resilient for the future by using the communities’ own assets. The work of ABCD begins by helping a community identify the local assets they possess that can match and address their local needs.

2. “Benefits of Asset Based Community Engagement” highlights the key areas of an asset-based approach, including identifying, affirming, and calling upon the gifts, resources, skills, and knowledge that already exist in the community. It also shifts the locale of power and control for community work from the outside expert to a blended situation where the outside expert and the community resident both have ideas to contribute.

3. “Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)” builds on the assets that are found in the community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to realize and develop their strengths. This makes it different from a Deficit-Based approach that focuses on identifying and servicing needs. ABCD encourages the building of new relationships and strengthening and expanding existing ones, which leads to the immeasurable benefit that communities protect and support what they create.

4. “What is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)” explains that ABCD is a strategy directed towards sustainable, economic development that is community-driven. The guiding principles for ABCD include addressing social and economic issues by building on the strengths and assets of the community.

5. “The Silver Linings of Asset-Based Community Development” explains that ABCD is a framework to discover and mobilize assets or resources available in a community and how to use them to benefit residents. The basic idea is to map the assets within a community, invest in those assets, and become more powerful together. By identifying and building connections, a community can network, learn, build, and increase output of social capital.

Notes about C4D:

The Communication for Development (C4D) model, also known as the Media for Development (M4D) model, is a tool for social and political transformation that promotes participation and social change using various communication methods and instruments. C4D aims to enable people, particularly the most disadvantaged in society, to participate in shaping decisions that affect their lives. It is a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods, focusing on seeking change at different levels, including listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating, and learning for sustained and meaningful change.

The benefits of the C4D model include:

1. Empowering people: C4D helps amplify the voices of marginalized communities and fosters social change by facilitating meaningful participation in decision-making processes.

2. Enhancing learning: Digital media, a component of C4D, can enhance learning by providing access to educational apps, online courses, and interactive tools that make learning new skills and concepts engaging.

3. Fostering creativity: Digital media can help individuals express themselves creatively through tools like graphic design software, music production software, and video editing tools.

4. Promoting social and behaviour change: C4D uses communication tools and techniques to facilitate community participation and engagement, fostering transformative social change.

5. Strengthening community resilience: In some cases, C4D has been used to increase community resilience against malnutrition and disease, reaching millions of people through media and house-to-house visits.

6. Supporting sustainable development: C4D is recognized by the United Nations and other organizations as playing an integral role in sustainable development.

The M4D approach, a more specific iteration of C4D, focuses on the use of mobile technologies in global development strategies. M4D relies on the theory that increased access to mobile devices acts as an integral cornerstone in the promotion of overall societal development. Mobile technologies have become a near necessity throughout the developed and developing world, and their adoption can be attributed to a necessary leapfrogging of traditional telephony and communication technologies.