Thoughts on the SBCC Summit

Post by Adelaida Trujillo, Director, Citurna Producciones/Imaginario

Back in Colombia after the fascinating experience in Ethiopia, I ask myself what was it that brought together 800+ participants from 50+ countries for the SBCC Summit? I think it is the common commitment and passion, from diverse positions and perspectives, to explore the best way forward for improving the media and communication for social and behavioural change strategies to guarantee evidence based, long term , sustainable platforms with deep impact on the complex development issues that we face. I found many of the ideas bold and challenging, specially those of the keynote presenters and closing session speakers, reflecting from the various perspectives of this field. And most important : they all managed to raise questions about the way we are doing our work in our countries and organizations.

Kumi Naido’s keynote speech on the central role of civil society in development and change processes, on social movements, as well as the responsibility we all have in ensuring a diverse and free media environment and balancing power relations, key for healthy democracies,  struck me as the most inspiring and challenging. It may have resonated because we are trying to implement communication and edutainment work for social change from a local , “organically grown “ CSO in Colombia, and conceive communication processes as platforms for shifting forward public policies and dialogue and debate, from a rights based approach and placing the people at the center. Kumi offered a historical and an essentially political perspective on development issues that demand complex solutions, such as civil rights, anti-racism, gay rights, representative democracy, gender equity, land reform, economic equity, peace process negotiations, etc.

A strategic follow up to Kumi’s challenge was posed by my admired edutainment colleague Lebo Ramafoko from Soul City, who provided an analysis from a leading southern organization, working at scale in a very complex environment like South Africa. Lebo’s bold questions on social change evidence, the role of international foundations , donors and the cooperation sector, its partnerships with local governments and CSOs as well as the (un)balance of north-south power relations , move our daily social change practice in Latinamerica.

Other presentations , ranging from how the brain works relative to behavioural “choices”to the state of the art in advertising or positioning branding also raised challenging questions in the way we should (or not?) incorporate these elements in our local work.

“The state of this field?” was the question posed throughout the Summit and some of the perspectives that resonate (and which coincide in part with my COMM TALK on our platform Revela2); include: 1. an increasing growth in the number of organizations focused on social and behavioural change/communication and media for development , specially local and national responding to our own contexts; 2. the growth in civil society organisations in many countries considering communication at the heart of change and rooted in a “local” analysis of the issues – not external perceptions or requirements; 3.the still prevalent division between those organizations which emphasize people as the subjects/objects of change; and those who focus on supporting the social, policy and cultural changes needed ; 4. the need to support and facilitate local and national dialogue, debate and conversation to amplify the voices of those most affected. 5 the digital world question was present throughout: the “channel” o “vehicle”, how to bridge the digital gap, and the essential qualities of digital: network building, peer-to-peer dialogue, social organisations, knowledge sharing, etc .

Finally, the CSO growth has created more spaces for supporting and facilitating networks, which can provide a firmer ground for development work , influenced by local analysis and voice , but a key tension kept floating to the surface: who sets the priorities and the agendas? major foundations, bilaterals , UN agencies , or locally grown organizations, local governments and /or CSO’s? What is possible – strategically – when there are no international development funding constraints, not a predetermined set of “deliverables”, not the oversight from an external agency?

The tension was evident between vertical programming with short term targets versus processes resulting from negotiation and partnerships with countries and local organisations. And a key question was raised: how to guarantee funds flow in equitable terms to local and national organisations like ours?

All these questions should be the heart of what we do…and I commit to sharing them with our region thru The Communication Initiative Latinamerica :