Paolo Mefalopulos had some interesting thoughts on the need for a different concept of communication in the context of development on the blog of the Communication for Governance and Accountability Programme of the World Bank:
If good governance is largely about strengthening citizens’ voices on the demand side, which in turn will also help enhance accountability and transparency on the supply side, it is clear that the traditional conception of communication – transmitting messages through given channels to “target audiences” – is not enough to achieve the intended results. What is needed to strengthen citizens’ voices and enable their active participation is a space where individuals feel safe and stimulated to be part of the processes leading to change.
As I highlighted in an earlier post, social media is about empowering people. Using the tools and concepts of web2.0 means that we have to change the way we traditionally interact with each other.
Let me give a practical example of using a wiki for producing a report on an issue. Traditionally, a person, or a group of persons will draft the report and send it for feedback to the people selected to ask. The feedback comes back to the group and gets incorporated in the document on the basis of what the drafting persons find relevant. Although the process might be very open and transparent with regards to what has been included and what not, in the end the decision will always be taken on the side of the drafting person.
Using a wiki, this process will be opened by inviting the same group of people, but potentially more, to edit the document. With everyone being able to make changes and reverse changes in a “safe space” the discussions become more transparent, but also less controlled. This de-centralising of control and empowering of each participant in the discussion can be frightening to the ones that are used to lead a discussion. It also does not necessarily mean that the process will be more productive. But it will increase the engagement and the committement of all participants and may question established perceptions and points of views of issues.
Now think how long it takes to change a process such as this one in your organisation. It becomes clear that adapting these processes to an even broader audience such as the citizens of a country will need time. But with the tools developed and looking at the videos on youtube, the images on flickr.com and the groups and causes on facebook.com, people starting to make us of them, it may not take as long as we may think.