In accordance with the central terminology of development communication, i.e. Communication for Social Change, the research centre wants to establish three focus areas: participation, empowerment and mediation. As Germany is currently experiencing a lot of social transformation, negotiation processes play a huge part in terms of how society should be configured.
In order to make the configuration accessible to all, one focus is on making the existing structures of these negotiation processes in the media and the institutions more participative and on opening these up, especially for marginalised groups.
In the focus empowerment and ownership, we are especially concerned with motivating people to express their issues by increasing the responsibility of the citizen and to enable them to participate. Of course, conflicts are not inevitable in negotiation processes. This is why we have adopted mediation as the third focus of the centre.
The aim is to mediate between the three various concerns and perspectives in order to ensure successful communication. In all three areas the question will be which structures promote and which hinder participation, empowerment and mediation. This is where the EC4SC research centre comes in and implements projects in the areas of research and teaching. A central concern is also transfer, in order to bring the knowledge gained from research into society.
Empowerment & Ownership
The centre EC4SC orients itself on the concept “participative communication”. Participative communication can be defined as a form of communication in which all participants in the dialogue have the same access to communication structures and opportunities to express their views, emotions and experiences. This approach is based on dialogue and enables the exchange of information, observations and opinions between the different interest groups. Far from restricting ourselves to the exchange of information and experiences, we aim to expand our brief to the research and generation of new knowledge to approach situations that need to be improved.
The active involvement of interest groups and the search for a broader consensus regarding desirable changes heightens the consciousness of trust among interest groups and improves sustainability. The participatory approach presupposes the basic position that people into whose life situation, structures or work ethos scholars intend research should be involved in the research from the beginning (see von Unger 2014). Especially marginalised groups should hence be able to contribute their interests expressively.
Participative research methodologies pursue thus a twofold objective; the participation of societal actors as co-researchers as well as measures for individual and collective self-enablement and empowerment of partners (empowerment) (von Unger 2014).
As part of our opening ceremony, we also interviewed three renowned scientists in the field of development communication. Prof. Linje Manyozo, Prof. Karin Wilkins and Prof. Thomas Tufte spoke to us about their research approaches and the aim of the EC4SC center and discussed why development communication is a central research area in Germany.
You can watch the individual interviews here:
Empowerment & Ownership
The second focus area of the research centre concentrates on empowering individuals and supporting them to advocate their issues and interests and thus enable them to lead a self-determined life. Empowerment strategies are designed to abolish marginalisation and ensure the equality of all people. Therefore, we offer our knowledge to facilitate the participative involvement of minorities and marginalised groups for successful inclusion and participation in the form of workshops and training.
Originally, the term empowerment comes from psychology and social pedagogy and means something like self-empowerment or self-competence (see BMZ). Empowerment strategies and measures are meant to support people in their endeavour to achieve self-empowerment. This happens through the accessibility of knowledge and information as well as the promotion and integration of existing knowledge and the capability of participating individuals from the interest group. Media can be part of that.
The foundation of each empowerment approach is self-management (ownership). This foundation implies the right of the interest groups of the projects to be given the opportunity to participate in the planning and production of the contents.
In addition to participation and empowerment, the EC4SC research center places a third focus on mediation. Mediators stand as a third, non-involved party between the parties involved in a conflict. The basic attitude of the mediators is that of the multipartiality. From this attitude, mediators convey and illuminate the conflicting interests and needs between the conflicting parties.
Against the background of a post-migration society (among others Ratkovic 2018), this means mediation and clarification in social conflicts that arise between different population groups. It also means that, at different times, the conflicts may or may not escalate in depth over individual conflict issues. Conflicts in post-migration societies are multi-level or complex (El-Mafaalani 2019). However, if properly accompanied and enlightened, they can reconstitute a society. They can become a "productive element" of social constitution (genuin Dahrendorf 1987).
Public and political mediation claim to contribute to social cohesion through communication. How can communication be used to generate and promote progressive and sustainable social change in society?
It can be assumed that the complexity of the conflicts result from different strategies of the conflict communicators, if they want to assert their interests. They have different means of doing so and use different techniques of reasoning (Greco 2018, Grasso 2000). Mediators must therefore compensate the different power differentials in a public conflict. Minorities are strengthened and strong speakers "brought back" (empowerment and recognition, Bush et al 2009, Lewis and Umbreit 2015). In the focus area, these different techniques are examined (from the media coverage to the local communicators involved and those in politics). In a first project, the possibilities for public mediation by journalistic communicators will be examined.
The coordination of this focus area will be taken on by Charlotte Knorr, M.A.
As there are many definitions of communication for social change, here we explain the different terms and our understanding of EC4SC.
The self-concept of EC4SC Centre is based on the original term ‘Entwicklungskommunikation’ (development communication), which describes the intention of hoping to achieve a positive and enduring development on an individual and societal level. Development communication can be described as the collective term for multifaceted forms of communication strategies that probe or activate potentials for societal change.
Generally, the aims of development communication orient themselves on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the "Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development". In September 2015, they were adopted by 150 heads of state at the UNO summit. The 17 aims for sustainable development recorded in this document are indicatory of approaches to development communication and are meant to ensure sustainability in an economic, social and ecological respect in view of societal development measures.
The approach Communication for Social Change known as C4SC is defined as a process of public and private dialogue through which individuals and communities can define who they are, what they want, and how they want to achieve it. This 1997 due to a conference developed definition transformed the self-conception of communication for development approaches: from externally predefined and unidirectional communication strategies aimed at driving individual behavior change, to strategies that paid attention to social and structural changes led by communities themselves.
This definition came about due to a 1997 conference (and follow-up meetings in 1998 and 1999), sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. Through time new uses of communication have been discussed, that allow people and societies to set their own agendas in relation to political, economic and social development and enabling the voices of the economically and politically marginalised to be amplified and channelled to the mainstream public and political debate.
One important corner stone for C4SC is thus the sustainability of the desired changes. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) summarized sustainable development in 1987 as follows:
„We define [sustainable development] as paths of human progress that meet the needs and aspirations of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” - World Commission on Environment and Development (2013: 29).
In addition, sustainability refers to the economic and social longevity of success achieved by the agreement of all parties involved. The desired change should not be attained by force or necessity but in an informative, conciliatory manner, resting on determined communication and being of a participative mode, on the basis of free decisions arrived at by all participants.
Dialogue communication, participation and empowerment are seen as essential components for the successful achievement of SDG, they are also core elements of C4SC. Involvement of the citizens to enable participation and thus empower the people (empowerment) are central key components of the Agenda 2030.
The activation of these resources – the knowledge and the competences of citizens in itself – is our concern. We therefore offer knowledge for participative communication and the involvement of the population in political creative processes.