Centre heads Global Research Initiative for Rural Communication

Leading the formation of the Global Research Initiative (GRI) for Rural Communication

The Centre for Communication and Social Change at UQ is leading the Global Research Initiative (GRI) for Rural Communication. The Centre is working with  members from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Wageningen University, University of Guelph, University of Reading, and University of the Philippines Los Baños. 
The GRI seeks to mainstream communication for development into the wider development agenda and practice, and has been formed by the leading research institutions in the field. They aim to collaborate and lead research into communication for development and social change. A first collaborative activity emerged from the FCCM in the form of a research project on ‘Evidence-based approaches for rural communication services’ commissioned by FAO to the GRI and coordinated by the UQ CfCSC.
The GRI alfeady has a track record of organising activities to place ComDev on the agenda of development and communication–related international conferences, meetings and events. In 2015, the GMI led two symposia at the 22nd European Seminar on Extension and Education (ESEE) in Wageningen, The Netherlands, and a panel presentation at the IAMCR Conference in Montreal, Canada. 
In terms of research and capacity building, GRI has identified several possible areas of work:  mapping e-learning modules and higher education courses on rural communication; mapping community for development research and methodologies; fielding student assistants for such activities and for internships in FAO projects; considering a global PhD course (similar to WASS structure) to be held in Rome in close connection with FAO and the University of Perugia; conducting an inventory of shared sources (text books, learning environments); using and actively contributing to the recent publication of Communication for Rural Development Sourcebook; and promote exchange through visiting scholars and fellowships. 
Centre Director Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert said that, "The ComDev GRI provides a unique opportunity for academics and practitioners across the world to share experiences and models for rural communication implementation and evaluation, and to collaborate on research projects that raise awareness about the key role that communication plays in sustainable development". 
The GRI formed as a follow up of a pre-conference on ‘Communication for Sustainable Rural Development and Social Change’ organised by representatives from the above organisations at the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) Conference in Hyderabad in July 2014. A workplan was consolidated after the GRI members participated in the ‘Forum on Communication for Development & Community Media for Family Farming’ (FCCM) organised by FAO in October 2014. 

ARC research looks at the work and dreams of refugees

Exploring the employment experiences and long-term aspirations of refugees in Australia

Centre Affiliates Dr Aparna Hebbani and Dr Levi Obijiofor are working on an ARC Linkage project that explores the current employment experiences and long-term aspirations of recent refugee arrivals in Australia, and the ways in which refugees communicate these aspirations to their children. 

The research project is in collaboration with Access Community Services Ltd. [ACSL], which provides settlement and employment services to refugees. They are part of a research team that consists of Emeritus Professor Cindy Gallois (UQ), Associate Professor Nigar Khawaja (QUT), and Associate Professor Val Colic-Peisker (RMIT).
The project’s aim is to gather information on the employment aspirations of former refugees from various refugee communities and assess if these aspirations vary among the communities being studied. Another aim is to understand how parents’ aspirations influence messages they give to the second generation regarding education and employment trajectories. The study will also collect data on acculturation and acculturative stress faced by these humanitarian entrants in Australia.
Dr Hebbani says: “Our findings will assist refugee settlement providers with data to then start new programs which will aid long-term settlement.”
Participants of the study are former refugees from the Karen, Karenni and Chin communities from Burma, as well as the Congolese and Ethiopian communities. To be eligible, participants must have been in Australia for at least one year and have at least one child who is 9 years or over. ACCESSS has been supporting the process when needed with interpreters, bilingual bicultural support as well as helping with the participant recruitment process. As part of data collection in Year 1, 222 adult refugees living in South-east Queensland were surveyed. Data were collected over a period of 10 months (August 2013-May 2014). Phase two of the study involves in-depth interviews, which started in March 2015.

The project has not been without its difficulties and setbacks. “This project has been an interesting journey in terms of challenges with regard to conducting research with CALD communities,” says Dr Hebbani. She adds “One cannot use a ‘one method fits all’ approach to conduct research as each refugee community is different and their culture varies even among various Burmese communities and among both participants from both African nations. For instance, working with the Karen participants is different from working with the Congolese.” It appears that refugees may be over-researched (similar to working with Indigenous communities). Dr Hebbani says “many participants do not understand what research is, why it is needed, and they expect to see instant results. They lead busy lives with large families to look after so many don’t have time to take part in research projects.”

Dr Hebbani presented the findings on predictors of employment success at the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico in May 2015.
The research results will be disseminated to project partners, in addition to findings presented at national/international conferences and journal articles. Results will be presented at the end of the project to leaders from all the communities involved.

Communication for Social Change Book Series

Collaborating with prestigious global academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan to produce a book series which explores new thinking in theory, methods and policy

The Centre is collaborating with prestigious global academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan to produce a book series on Communication for Social Change (CSC).

The series explores new thinking in CSC theory, methods and policy, and the multiple interfaces between culture, technology, political economy and social change.

It also spotlights ingenuity in theory, innovation in methods, and novelty in determining policy issues.
So far, seven books in the series have been published. 
According to Associate Professor Pradip Thomas, the CfCSC has a strong, knowledgeable and committed team undertaking this project.
“I believe that we have the capacity to contribute to the establishment of globally recognised series," he says.
"The contributors have a range of CSC interests and engage with CSC from a variety of vantage points, making our team unique."
A/P Thomas says the series highlights important relationships between CSC theory and practice.
“Cultural, technological and social change has always impacted on its theorising and it is important that theory keeps up with these changes," he says.
"Furthermore, there is a need for conversations between theory and practice – and we hope that books in this series will be able to explore new ideas, new pathways, and new ways of making sense of complexity."
Palgrave Macmillan serves learning and scholarship in higher education and professional markets, publishing textbooks, journals, monographs, professional and reference works in print and online.
For authors and/or scholars thinking on proposing a book for this series, A/P Thomas advises to take risks, explore new ideas, be critical, and above all, make sure that the propose is a manageable, achievable project.
The series editors are still welcoming book proposals. If you think you have a project that may be suitable, get in touch with the Series Editors, CfCSC: Pradip Thomas (pradip.thomas@uq.edu.au); Elske van de Fliert (e.vandefliert@uq.edu.au); or the Publisher at Palgrave Macmillan: Felicity Plester (f.plester@palgrave.com)
To puchase hardcopy or digital versions of any of the books already published in the series, visit the Palgrave MacMillan website. 

Improving the lives of Indonesian cattle farmers

Using communication to improve smallholder cattle fattening systems based on forage tree legume (FTL) diets in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia

The CfCSC’s Director, Elske van de Fliert, has been involved since 2010 in a project entitled ‘Improving smallholder cattle fattening systems based on forage tree legume (FTL) diets in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia’.

The project is led by the Associate Professor Max Shelton of the UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (SAFS) and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Other partners are the Assessment Institutes for Agricultural Technology in NTB and NTT provinces, the University of Mataram and CSIRO.

The project is working with smallholder cattle farmers in Lombok, Sumbawa, West Timor and Sumba.

Through a separate agreement with ACIAR from 2010-2013, Elske was in charge of conducting a diagnostic Situation Analysis study at the start of the project, building participatory research and communication skills among junior field researchers, and designing an outreach strategy to engage smallholder farmers in implementation of improved FTL-based cattle managed systems.
Through a new agreement with ACIAR and the CfCSC, an outreach strategy is being piloted on a larger scale and impact assessment case studies are being conducted.

During this phase we are working with with Dr Nurul Hilmiati, who graduated for her PhD in Communication for Social Change from UQ in 2013, and upon return from Brisbane got promoted as Head of Collaboration and Assessment Services Division of the Assessment Institutes for Agricultural Technology in NTB.
This project provides a very interesting case to explore the mechanisms for a transdisciplinary approach to research for development.
It experiments with communication methods to align scientists, agricultural extension services and rural communities in their collaborative effort to achieving outcomes that eventually benefit families who are living on small pockets of land.

Sharing knowledge through Herder Service Centres in Mongolia

Supporting communication services for nomadic herders through the Extension Component of the Green Gold - Phase IV project in Mongolia

The Centre for Communication and Social Change (CfCSC) in collaboration with UQ International Development has won a tender for the Extension Component of the Green Gold - Phase IV project in Mongolia.

The Green Gold project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and started in 2004 to promote collective actions for sustainable rangeland management and improving herders’ access to knowledge and markets in western Mongolia.
The new Extension Component of Phase IV of the project involves the establishment and operationalisation of communication services to facilitate access for herders to practicable knowledge and opportunities for exchange and collective action.
Centre Director Elske van de Fliert will lead the project team, which will further involve CfCSC affiliate Dr Erdenebolor Baast, an agricultural  extension specialist from the Association for Sustainable Rural Development (ASRD) in Mongolia and PhD candidate Grady Walker, environmental education specialist and participatory video expert.
The Centre’s approach to the implementation of GG IV calls for well-informed individual decision making as well as collective planning and action at the farm household and community level. The project methodology applies interactive participatory approaches and works from the principle of facilitation of access to information, services, technologies and learning, and exchange opportunities.
In March 2015, Centre research assistant Grady Walker traveled to Khovd, Mongolia, to facilitate a Participatory Video (PV) Training of Facilitators (ToF). This training was an element of the participatory communications approach being implemented by the agricultural extension component of the Green Gold project. The training involved the participation of teams from five soums in Khovd Aimag. Each team was composed of a pair of individuals: the first was a member of the Association of Pastoral User Groups (APUG) and the second was from the Animal Husbandry Breeding Units (AHBU). In addition to these ten participants, two other individuals attended the training. One was a project officer from the Swiss Development Corporation’s (SDC) breeding project, and the other was a local agricultural extension officer and CfCSC partner who had previous experience working with video-based participatory approaches.

The training was a practical skills-based workshop aimed at developing the capacity for participants to use video in their operations within the parameters of the project.

One of the participants shared his impression about the training in this video.

The project timeframe is slightly over three years (Nov 2013 – Dec 2016) and the volume of funding is CHF 1.7 million (approximately AUD 2 million).


Supporting smallholder cattle farmers in Timor Leste

Using participatory communication to help smallholder cattle farmers in Timor Leste

For Timorese farmers, owning cattle can be an important source of income, social status and ceremonial significance.

Since 2012, the CfCSC has been involved in a project coordinated by the Queensland Alliance for Agricultural and Food Innovation (QAAFI) to map out farmers' needs and opportunities and to design and pilot a communication strategy to support and improve smallholder cattle production in Timor Leste.

Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert is working with project leader Geoffrey Fordyce, Dr Simon Quigley and Dr Scott Waldren from the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Neal Dalgliesh from CSIRO and local staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the National University of Timor Lorosa'e and ACIAR beef projects. The aim of the project is to improve the livelihoods of smallholder beef cattle systems in the region.

A/P Van de Fliert says the research will enable the project team to understand the realities of smallholder cattle farmers in Timor Leste and together with the communities identify needs and opportunities to design and test improved systems.

‘Our research methods include problem tree analysis and concept mapping exercises to help farmers communicate their perspectives to the project team’.

Project staff have received training from Australian staff each time they visit.  This includes considerable communications training which is fundamental to delivery of recommendations from our research to farmers.  This is now being implemented as an “outreach” program that brings together the interventions being recommended and communications skills development. Extension of the project will enable the outreach program to be applied to a more complete cycle of events, thus better positioning staff for future extension.
Further training and media activities will be conducted, including an intensive training of trainers’ workshop. Together, these will provide Field Researchers with necessary experience for future farmer support.
The Timor Leste government sees beef cattle as a major commodity for domestic and international trade. Likewise, Indonesian importers see Timor Leste cattle owners as a significant supply source.Market research will be completed through: identification of more commercialised cattle producers including fattening households in project districts; identification of cattle spotters and traders in project districts; identify and develop linkages with traders and butchers in Dili and district centres who could buy cattle from project sites; and develop links at national and district levels with banks that may enter into savings and loan arrangements. Training at UNTL Faculty of Agriculture on value chain analysis will be undertaken, drawing on the Timor Leste beef industry as a case study.





UN Round Table on Communication for Development paper

Producing a background discussion paper for the XIII United Nation’s Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development

The Centre for Communication and Social Change was invited to produce background discussion paper for the XIII United Nation’s Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development, hosted by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome in 2014. 

According to Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert this engagement with FAO was a great opportunity for the CfCSC to connect with organisations that actively practise Communication for Development in the field to feed research experiences into field practice. It also provides a unique chance for our students to reflect on the application of Communication for Social Change by large development organisations.
The goal of the upcoming XIII UNRT is to discuss the opportunities for a more prominent and mainstreamed role of Communication for Development within the UN system, mechanisms for strengthening inter-agency collaboration, and the application of Communication for Development principles and strategies to maximise the impact of development programs.
The CfCSC examined current trends, challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming Communication for Development into policies and programs addressing food and nutrition security, rural livelihoods, and resilience to threats and crises.
Since 1986 the Round Table has been recognised by the UN as an important mechanism of interagency cooperation and coordination for promoting and advancing communication for development.
In 2014 the focus of the Round Table will be on Communication for Development in agricultural policies and sustainable livelihoods. Since the RT will coincide with the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) under the leadership of FAO, it is proposed that the main theme be addressed from a “Family Farming” perspective.
PhD students Hagos Nigussie from Ethiopia, Grady Walker from the United States, Steve Sam from Sierra Leona, CSC master graduate Laura Simpson Reeves from Australia and CfCSC staff Claudia Sepulveda from Chile worked on the paper under the supervision of Centre Director Elske van de Fliert.
The paper is available here. 


Big Stories Small Towns Beaudesert

Digital storytelling in Beaudesert community for the Big Stories Small Towns project

The Big Stories Small Towns Beaudesert was a 2014 collaboration between the CfCSC and the multiplatform documentary project Big Stories Small Towns. 

Postdoctoral Researcher and Big Stories Creative Director and Producer Martin Potter started the project in 2008 in Port Augusta and it has since spread its wings across the Asia Pacific, running in Banlung, Cambodia and recently wrapping up post production in Raja Ampat, Papua New Guinea. Big Stories Small Towns features collaboration between small town communities and filmmakers in residence. The project is shaped through extensive local consultation and participation to create stories made by both filmmakers and community members.
Centre Project Officer Samantha Ryan worked as Producer with filmmaker in residence Peter Hegedus. CSC Masters students enrolled in the new Participatory Media Production course were involved in the project in the semester two, creating work with the local community.
“I first became involved with the community in Beaudesert  when I was a Project Officer working with ECCQ conducting training and forums across Queensland to get multicultural voices out into the media. I was also conducting a digital storytelling project with State Library of Queensland with Australian South Sea Islander communities, Memories of a Forgotten People. I was invited out to talk to the committee about an event they were creating, This Is Our Story, which was a commemorative walk which marked 150 years since the first Australian South Sea Islanders were brought from Vanuatu into Queensland to work as indentured labour in cotton plantations” Samantha said.
“I thought there was something really powerful and amazing happening in this community, the weaving together of different people’s stories. I suggested Big Stories to the community after the event was a bit success, as a way to keep this creative storytelling happening. I’m so excited to now be able to work with them to make it happen!” she said.
Big Stories focuses on those caring for and creating their own community. From the Longriders in Murray Bridge, the Ngarrindjeri community of Raukkan on the shores of Lake Alexandrina, the Men’s Shed in Port Augusta to the Tampuon people of Banlung on the edge of the jungle in Northern Cambodia, Big Stories aims to connect local stories to build a diverse and inspiring global portrait of country life.
You can see all of the resulting films and community made content at www.bigstories.com.au/towns/beaudesert. 


Indigenous Communication Strategy scoping study

A scoping study on Indigenous radio in Cape York for the Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA)

Postdoctoral Researcher Martin Potter and Centre Project Officer Samantha Ryan conducted a scoping study with the Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA) in Hope Vale, Cape York, on indigenous radio.

The 2014 pilot project sought to develop indigenous communication centres in four proposed sites. The proposed initiative was about fostering Indigenous knowledge, developing local skills, playing to cultural strengths and building on current community activities and infrastructure. The Centre would work across many media – radio, online, print and video and would offer training, content production and numerous enterprise opportunities.
The aim of the study was to establish an understanding of the project at a local community level and to better understand community interest, capacity, needs and constraints.
The team spent five days visiting stakeholders working across sectors and representing different aspects of the Hope Vale community and external engagement with service providers and government in Cairns and Cooktown.
“It was excellent for us to be out in the field getting the perspectives of that community. They were supportive of the idea of the communication centre and the role it could play in their community, especially promoting youth leadership, language and culture. We’re looking forward to working with AICA on the next stages,” Samantha said.
This scoping study reflects the findings of the first stage of a proposed multi-stage pilot project to create Indigenous Communication Centres, building on the current network, activities, cultural importance and community ownership of the Remote Indigenous Broadcasting System (RIBS) and the Remote Indigenous Media Organisations (RIMOs).
In this initiative, UQ is working with Australian Indigenous Communication Association (AICA). AICA is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national peak elected representative body for all aspects of the broadcasting and media sector in Australia.
The AICA provides support, representation and a voice for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and organisations that are actively involved in or connected with broadcasting.
The AICA also formulates and advocates policy with and for the national members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting and media sector in urban, rural and remote areas who are working within broadcasting, print, online, film, video and television.


Supporting smallholder farmers in North-West Vietnam

Using participatory development communication processes to coordinate a $2.2 million ACIAR project

Active from 2009 to 2014, the main participants in this program were smallholder farmers in the north-west highlands of Vietnam who have recently acquired market access and are in the transition to commercial agriculture. The aim of this project was to increase participants’ engagement in competitive value chains associated with maize and temperate fruit based farming systems, while improving land and crop management practices for the development of sustainable and profitable farming systems.

The project’s first year highlighted the effectiveness of a system’s-based, participatory approach in the identification of potential innovations that can support farmers to change their current practices towards more profitable and sustainable farming. Farmers showed committed engagement in the experiments in most locations, although the benefits on their livelihood will still have to be proven throughout the project’s remaining stages.
Researchable areas included practice change models, development, soil erosion management, integrated crop management, and value chain analysis.
For more information, see the project description on the ACAIR's website.

Capacity building and knowledge exchange in Indonesia

Exploring stakeholder models for participatory development for Indonesia's Smallholder Agribusiness Development Initiative (SADI)

Commissioned by ACIAR in 2007 the project provided support to Indonesia's Smallholder Agribusiness Development Initiative (SADI) which was established to address long-standing issues and constraints relating to agricultural production and rural poverty in Eastern Indonesia.

Support was provided in the form of advice and collaboration on workshops, new model exploration, field visits, methodology and reporting, in the following areas:
  • Institutional assessments to determine the nature and effectiveness of current research-extension linkages and methods;
  • Strengthening linkages between R&D and extension providers;
  • Improving extension media and materials to assist in disseminating successful R&D outcomes;
  • Recommending approaches to agricultural technology assessment;
  • Utilising improved linkages, media and approaches for the pilot roll-out of promising technical options resulting from adaptive R&D activities.

For more information, visit the project profile on ACIAR's website.

Developing a human and social impact assessment framework

Drawing from experiences in communication and development projects the CfCSC developed a human and social impacts framework and methods for assessment

The University of Queensland funded the development of a human and social capital impact framework and methods for assessment.

Research was conducted to explore and define the links between human, social and financial capital.

This helped form a framework that is used to strengthen the research and evaluation in other development initiatives currently being implemented by the CfCSC.

Developing media training skills - My Media Trainer

Creating an interactive, CD-based educational training program and resources kit for UNESCO

This project required the development of an interactive, educational program and resources kit is designed to help media professionals to develop training skills and techniques, thus enabling to initiate and implement courses, workshops and seminars.

The resource kit needed to address media professionals’ existing skills and competencies in their own fields and guide them in how to teach those skills to others, whether through formal classroom activities, in ‘on-the-job’ settings or during specialist workshops.


ICT policy development in the Solomon Islands

Technical advice and guidance for an information communication technologies (ICT) policy in the Solomon Islands

Working with the Prime Minister’s Office for the Solomon Island the CfCSC supported the preparation and design of the draft national communications and ICT strategic policy framework for Solomon Islands.

This work was funded by the British High Commission in Honiara.

R&D needs and opportunities assessment in Vietnam

A scoping study to identify agricultural needs and opportunities in rural upland communities in the North-West of Vietnam

Working with ACIAR the CfCSC was awarded $109,849 to conduct a scoping study to identify agricultural needs and opportunities in rural upland communities in the North-West of Vietnam. 

This project involved Vietnamese and Australian R&D institutions and individuals towards the planning and implementation of research, targeting the specific needs of rural upland communities. It was also essential to identify constraints and R&D needs and opportunities related to agricultural livelihood systems in rural upland communities. The objective was to develop a framework for an agricultural systems research program targeting the needs of rural upland communities in north-western Vietnam.

The project involved a general profiling of 6 provinces in north-west Vietnam although data was collected on R&D needs and opportunities in only three provinces. It was found that the region lagged in agricultural development in comparison to the lowlands region/s but that a strong capacity for research exists.

A recommendation was provided for a potential research program consisting of a number of components.

For more information, see the ACIAR project profile.

Short-term capacity building training

International consulting for the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development

Working with the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, the CfCSC has been involved in consultancies in India, Iran, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Macau SAR, and the South Pacific region, including Fiji.

These consultancies have involved a wide range of institutions (including government and media organisations) in areas related to communication, journalism, and development.

Social change research for ethnic minority communities in Vietnam

A participatory needs and opportunity assessment (PNOA) for communities’ crop and pest management needs

This project involved a needs and opportunity assessment study among ethnic minority communities and local community-based organisations .

A study was conducted to identify appropriate research partners in Vietnam for follow-up participatory research and a training workshop was development and implemented for R&D practitioners on participatory research and dissemination approaches.

The project culminated in the formulation of a follow-up research and development program applying participatory approaches to target the crop and pest management needs of ethnic minority communities in central Vietnam.
The final report is available on the ACIAR project profile website

Assistance in developing tertiary studies in Fiji

Supporting the University of the South Pacific to create contextual communication and journalism courses

From 2009 to 2011 the CfCSC supported the University of the South Pacific in creating contextual communication and journalism courses. 

The three year consultancy period involved assessing the communication and journalism programs at the University of South Pacific.

The recommendations aimed to improve the content and delivery of the courses, and create more relevant content. 

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