Development Communication and Policy Sciences
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The notion of "policy sciences" may have different connotations. According to Harold Laswell (1971), "policy sciences are concerned with the knowledge of and in the decision processes of the public and civic order". Knowledge of decision processes points to the empirical and scientific understanding of the how policies are made and executed. Empirical knowledge pertains to those generated through scientific inquiry ad observation as applied to decision processes.
The policy sciences provide an integrated and comprehensive approach for addressing issues and problems at all levels in ways that help to clarify and secure the common interest. Helping people make better decisions is the central objective of the policy sciences, and the fundamental goal is to foster a commonwealth of human dignity for all. Alexander G. Flor, Ph.D., one of the esteemed development communicators in the Philippines and also a full professor at the University of the Philippines Open University, points out that "policy scientists or policy analysts are involved not only in the scientific design, formulation, analysis and evaluation of policies. They are also concerned with the study of the policy making process itself". Flor advocates that "if indeed communication and information are to be efficiently and effectively utilized in the development process, then policies are needed to direct their use for the achievement of the highest social good".
The term "policy sciences" is in plural form to emphasize its interdisciplinary nature. It recognizes the multiplicity of factors affecting certain problems and multi-dimensions of certain phenomenon that is subject to decision processes. As such, the emphasis of policy sciences is on applying scientific or empirical evidences in understanding problems so that more realistic, responsive and effective interventions are identified and implemented. Since a problem is multi-dimensional, various scientific disciplines are needed to form a comprehensive analysis of a certain phenomenon.
Policy analysis styles
Dutch policy science experts Mayers, van Daalen and Bots developed policy analysis styles which can be helpful to communication policy analysts and organizational policy analysts, among others. These styles are as follow:
This style is "shaped to a large degree by assumptions about knowledge and reality, and by a relatively large distance between the object and subject of study."
Assumes that "when analyzing policy, it is important to devote attention to aspects related to the language game that takes place around a policy problem or issue".
- Client advice
"Besides knowledge and insights gained through research, policy analysis is largely a question of politico-strategic insight and skills including client-analyst communication."
Assumed that "not all sections of the population have ready access to policy systems; researchers, economic elites, institutionalized non-governmental organizations and politicians dominate policy discussions and decisions about major social issues."
This is based on the assumption that "substantive aspects of a policy problem are, in fact, coordinate or perhaps even subordinate to the procedural aspects of a policy problem. The analyst or process manager creates 'loose coupling' of procedural aspects and substantive aspects of a problem."
This style assumes that "individuals – experts, analysts, clients, stakeholders and target groups – have or may have differing views of the 'same' policy problem. An insight relevant to policy can be obtained by bringing about a confrontation and interaction of different views."
The styles mentioned above are based on underlying values and orientations, which determine in what way a policy analyst or others will view the quality of the policy analysis study and the criteria that will be applied to examine it. According to Mayer et al. these criteria can be made explicit by addressing the following questions:
- Rational style. What is good knowledge?
- Argumentative style. What is good for the debate?
- Client advice style. What is good for the client/problem owner?
- Participatory style. What is good for democratic society?
- Process style. What is good for the process?
- Interactive style. What is good for mutual understanding?
Theoretical approaches in development communication
Today, development communication has shifted from modernization and dependency theories to more normative and holistic approaches. The modernization paradigm, which became dominant in the 1945 to 1965, supported the transfer of technology and the socio-political culture of the developed societies to the traditional societies. Development then was defined as economic growth. The main idea of the modernization perspective is the idea of evolution where development is conceived as directional and cumulative, predetermined and irreversible, progressive, and immanent with reference to the nation state. Here, the developed western societies seem to be the ultimate goals which the less developed societies strive to reach. These two sectors, the traditional and the modern, were regarded as two stages of development and in time the differences between them were to disappear because of the natural inclination towards equilibrium. The problem was to remove the barriers, which were only to be found in the traditional society. These barriers can be removed through at least five mechanisms:
- demonstration, whereby the developing world tries to catch up with the more developed by adopting more advanced methods and techniques;
- fusion, which is the combination and integration of distinct modern methods;
- compression, whereby the developing countries attempt to accomplish the task of development in less time than it took the developed world;
- prevention that is, by learning from the 'errors' made by the developed countries; and
- adaptation of modern practices to the local environment and culture.
Accordingly, the means of modernization were the massive transfer of capital, ideology, technology, and know-how. The measures of progress were G.N.P., literacy, industrial base, urbanization, and the like, all quantifiable criteria.
Communication theories such as the diffusion of innovations, the two-step-flow, or the 'extension' approaches are congruent with the modernization theory. According to Everett Rogers, one of the leading proponents of the diffusion theory, this perspective implies that the role of communication was (1) to transfer technological innovations from development agencies to their clients, and (2) to create an appetite for change through raising a climate for modernization' among the members of the public (Rogers, 1986).
The 1950s was the decade of the communication model. One of the earliest and most influential of these came not from the social sciences or humanities, but from information engineering. Shannon and Weaver's linear source-transmitter-channel-receiver-destination model eclipsed the earlier, more organic, psychological and sociological approaches. Lasswell, Hofland, Newcomb, Schramm, Westley and Mclean, Berlo, and others each devised a model of communication as they conceived it. This profusion of communication models may be attributed to three reasons. Firstly, because they identified communication basically as the transfer of information, they were amenable to empirical methodology, thus establishing the basis for communication as a distinct and legitimate science. Secondly, theorists focused on the efficiency, or effects, of communication, thereby holding vast promise for manipulation or control of message receivers by vested interests, or the sources. Finally, the communication models fit neatly into the nature and mechanics of mass or mediated communication, an emergent and powerful force at that time. Therefore, in these years, the discipline of communication was largely, and most importantly, its effects. The hypodermic needle effects of media were to be a quick and efficient answer to a myriad of social ills.
Building primarily on sociological research in agrarian societies, Everett Rogers (1973) stressed the adoption and diffusion processes of cultural innovation. Modernization is here conceived as a process of diffusion whereby individuals move from a traditional way of life to a more complex, more technically developed and more rapidly changing way of life. This approach is therefore concerned with the process of diffusion and adoption of innovations in a more systematic and planned way. He distinguishes between five phases in the diffusion process: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption. The role of the mass media is concentrated on the first stage of the process, whereas personal sources are most important at the evaluation stage in the adoption process (Rogers, 1962). In a second edition of his work (Rogers,1973), there are only four crucial steps left in the process of diffusion and adoption: (a) the knowledge of the innovation itself (information), (b) the communication of the innovation (persuasion), (c) the decision to adopt or reject the innovation (adoption or rejection), and (d) the confirmation of the innovation by the individual.
Three more approaches contributed to the success of this diffusion model: that is, a psycho-sociological, institutional and technological interpretation of communication for modernization. The psycho-sociological or behavioristic perspective on communication and modernization is particularly concerned with the individual value and attitude change. Rokeach (1966) defined attitude as a relatively enduring organization of beliefs about an object or situation predisposing one to respond in some preferential manner. Attitude change would then be "a change in predisposition, the change being either a change in the organization or structure of beliefs, or a change in the content of one or more of the beliefs entering into the attitude organization" (Rokeach, 1966; cited in Servaes, 2002). Central in the view of Daniel Lerner (1958), one of the main representatives of this communication for modernization paradigm, is the concept of 'empathy'—the capacity to see oneself in the other fellow's situation. The major hypothesis is that high empathy is predominantly the personal style in modern society, which is distinctively industrial, urban, literate and participant.
Wilbur Schramm (1964), building on Lerner's idea, took a closer look on the perceived connection between mass communication and modernizing practices and institutions. The modern communication media supplement and complement the mobility multipliers—the oral channels of a traditional society. Their development runs parallel to the development of other institutions of modern society, such as schools and industry, and is closely related to some of the indices of general social and economic growth, such as literacy, per capita income, and urbanization. So he claimed that a developing country should give special attention to combining mass media with interpersonal communication (Schramm, 1964; cited in Servaes, 2002).
The participatory model incorporates the concepts in the emerging framework of multiplicity. It stresses the importance of cultural identity of local communities and of democratization and participation at all levels—international, national, local and individual. It points to a strategy, not merely inclusive of, but largely emanating from, the traditional receivers. Paulo Freire (1983; cited in Servaes, 2002) refers to this as the right of all people to individually and collectively speak their word. Consequently, no one can say a true word alone—nor can he say it for another, in a prescriptive act which robs others of their words. In order to share information, knowledge, trust, and commitment a right attitude in development projects participation is very important in any decision making process for development. This entails a new attitude for overcoming stereotyped thinking and to promote more understanding of diversity and plurality, with full respect for the dignity and equality of peoples living in different conditions and acting in different ways. (International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, 1980; cited in Servaes, 2002) This model stresses reciprocal collaboration throughout all levels of participation. Listening to what the others say, respecting the counterpart's attitude, and having mutual trust are needed.
Participation involves the more equitable sharing of both political and economic power, which often decreases the advantage of certain groups. Structural change involves the redistribution of power. In mass communication areas, many communication experts agree that structural change should occur first in order to establish participatory communication policies. In fact, Mowlana and Wilson (1987) made this clear by stating that "Communications policies are basically derivatives of the political, cultural and economic conditions and institutions under which they operate. They tend to legitimize the existing power relations in society, and therefore, they cannot be substantially changed unless there are fundamental structural changes in society that can alter these power relationships themselves".
Since dialogue and face-to-face interaction is inherent in participation, the development communicator usually spend more time in the field as rapport and trust take time to develop. This is the reason why continued contact, meeting commitments, keeping promises, and follows up between visits are important. Development of social trust precedes task trust. Both parties will need patience. It is important to note that treating people the way we would like to be treated, we learn to work as a team, and this brings about rural commitment and motivation too. Further, honesty, trust, and commitment from the higher ups bring honesty, trust, and commitment for the grass-roots as well bringing about true participation. And true participation brings about appropriate policies and planning for developing a country within its cultural and environmental framework. Consequently, the perspective on communication also changes. It is more concerned with process and context, that is, on the exchange of meanings, and on the importance of this process, namely, the social relational patterns and social institutions that are the result of and are determined by the process. With this shift in focus, one is no longer attempting to create a need for the information one is disseminating, but one is rather disseminating information for which there is a need. Experts and development workers rather respond than dictate, they choose what is relevant to the context in which they are working. The emphasis is on information exchange rather than on the persuasion in the diffusion model.
Two major approaches to participatory communication
There are two major approaches to participatory communication. The first is the dialogical pedagogy of Paulo Freire, and the second involves the ideas of access, participation and self-management articulated in the Unesco debates of the 1970s. Every communication project which calls itself participatory accepts these principles of democratic communication.
The Freirian argument works by a dual theoretical strategy. It is argued that subjugated peoples must be treated as fully human subjects in any political process. This implies dialogical communication. Although inspired to some extent by Sartre's existentialism—a respect for the autonomous personhood of each human being—the more important source is a theology that demands respect for otherness—in this case that of another human being. The second strategy is a moment of utopian hope derived from the early Marx that the human species has a destiny which is more than life as a fulfillment of material needs. Also from Marx is an insistence on collective solutions. Individual opportunity, Freire stresses, is no solution to general situations of poverty and cultural subjugation.
The second discourse about participatory communication is the Unesco language about self-management, access and participation from the 1977 meeting in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The final report of that meeting defines the terms in the following way: Access refers to the use of media for public service. It may be defined in terms of the opportunities available to the public to choose varied and relevant programs and to have a means of feedback to transmit its reactions and demands to production organizations.
Participation implies a higher level of public involvement in communication systems. It includes the involvement of the public in the production process, and also in the management and planning of communication systems. It may be no more than representation and consultation of the public in decision-making. On the other hand, self-management is the most advanced form of participation. In this case, the public exercises the power of decision-making within communication enterprises and is also fully involved in the formulation of communication policies and plans. These ideas are important and widely accepted as a normative theory of alternative communication: it must involve access and participation. However, one should note some differences from Freire. The Unesco discourse includes the idea of a gradual progression. Some amount of access may be allowed, but self-management may be postponed until sometime in the future. The Unesco discourse talks in neutral terms about "the public". Freire talked about the oppressed. Finally, the Unesco discourse puts the main focus on the institution. Participatory radio means a radio station that is self-managed by those participating in it.
Development Communication is focused on economic projects, inventions in science and technology, agriculture and other livelihood programs. It engages with key stakeholders, establishing conducive environments, assessing risks and opportunities, disseminating information and inducing positive behavioral and social change. As the Fifth Theory of the Press, it was conceptualized based on the Third World realities, and with “social transformation and development,” and “the fulfillment of basic needs” as its primary purpose (Flor, 2007).
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