Held on Friday, April 7 and Saturday April 8, ComDev’s teaching seminar for the core course Culture, Communication and Media Analysis offered students insights into both practical and theoretical aspects engaging with communication challenges in the field of international development.
Hosted at the Niagara Building in Malmö, the seminar brought together about 15 ComDev students on site and more than 30 online around the globe.

Anna Wachtmeister of Malmö University opened the seminar on Friday with a presentation on ‘Participatory processes within post-disaster housing,’ which captured her work in Haiti following the 2014 earthquake.
Her lecture was followed by the dynamic duo of Berndt Clavier and Asko Kauppinen both of Malmö University who explored  ‘Actor-Network Theory’ and introduced their research project on ‘Art & Governmentalization‘.
The first day ended with Linnaeus University’s Chris High’s presentation on ‘Understanding rural teachers’ practice in Malawi: Using participatory video and conceptual mapping in inductive research‘.

Saturday morning’s presentation from Malmö University’s Michael Krona on ‘Researching extremist propaganda – textual and visual analysis of ISIS media,’ was gripping and generated many questions from participants.

Finally, ComDev’s own Tobias Denskus brought the seminar to a close with an in-depth and interesting presentation on, ‘Aid worker voices and autobiographical writing of development-new avenues for research, teaching & communication.’

For ComDev student Paul May who travelled to Malmö from Germany, the presentation on participatory processes within post-disaster housing was captivating. “Anna’s talk on post-disaster housing in Haiti after the 2004 quake really stood out for me. It was refreshing to hear a candid account of the backstage dealings in disaster relief – that funding follows who parties with whom. Over the two days of seminars, I really appreciated the mix of practitioners and academics,” May said.

London-based student Patricia Whitehorne said of the seminar, “it was a rewarding and productive weekend. It was really valuable to interact with the speakers directly and being there in person means you can be much more engaged. The subjects covered were fascinating and gave an insight into first-hand experiences. And of course it was a great opportunity to meet staff and fellow students.”

Written by ComDev student assistant Yahneake Sterling who also contributed the photos.

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Between the 1926 March two second-year ComDev MA students, Abigail Leffler and Yee-Yin Yap, accompanied by the course coordinator Oscar Hemer, visited Beirut, Lebanon. The goal of the trip was to acquaint themselves with the socio-political climate of the country, and conduct interviews for their theses projects in connection with UNICEF  Lebanon’s refugee strategy, No Lost Generation.

The Production Project offers an opportunity to M.A. students who are pursuing the new 120 credit ComDev master’s programme to be creative while receiving hands-on experience in the production of a viable Communication for Development (C4D) media products.

Abigail and Yee-Yin’s Production Project will be linked to the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAPs) study that is currently being conducted by a team led by ComDev’s Ronald Stade, on behalf of UNICEF Lebanon. The KAP Study aims to discern a baseline study for UNICEF’s continued work in the country, and to recommend key C4D interventions for five of its key programme areas: Education, Health, Youth, Sanitation and Child Protection. It is hoped that some of the data from the KAP Study could be used to inform their production project initiatives, and their final Production Project presentation will be made available to UNICEF Lebanon.

During the trip, the team met with UNICEF’s C4D unit’s key staff members Julianne Birungi and Ibrahim El Sheikh to discuss its priority areas, which are education and the different types of violence perpetrated against children in Lebanon. A meeting with UNICEF Lebanon’s Social Media Officer, Sara Sandra Chehab also shed light on UNICEF’s work and media user statistics.

The team also met with Maurice Aaek, who is with the BBC Media Action in Lebanon, who provided an invaluable source of information relating to media consumption channels of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the region. Other meetings included Dr Nabil Dajani, the Acting Head of the American University in Beirut’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies as well as C4D pioneer in Lebanon, and Dr Dima Dabbous, Assistant Professor in Communication at the American University in Beirut. Topics discussed with Dr Dajani touched upon the importance of the burgeoning field of C4D in the Arab World and the significance of interpersonal communication channels such as ‘folk media’ – the dissemination of information through traditional modes of communication such as cultural and performance arts, in the development field especially in customary settings.

The discussion with Dr Dabbous centered on the representation of Syrian refugees, especially of women and girls in Lebanese media, which provided insight on possible stereotypes and prejudices about Syrians by the host community. The team also had the occasion to interview a prominent rap artist in Lebanon by the name of Nasser “Chyno” Shorbaji to learn of various cultural projects that are led by musicians and artists to bridge the widening gap between the different ethnic groups in Lebanon. These include the use of rap songs as expressions of freedom and hope by the youth of the region.

Although the visit was a short one, the team felt that it was an eye-opening experience that provided a firsthand account of the work of as well as the challenges faced by international and local organizations on site. The visit also imparted on the team strong impressions of the delicate convivial balance between the many groups in Lebanon but in particular between the host community and the refugee populations.

Yee-Yin Yap wrote the trip report with input from Abigail Leffler and the ComDev team.

In 2009, I embarked on the ComDev program at Malmö University, after chancing upon it on the Swedish University Admissions portal.
It was a huge leap of faith for me, as I had absolutely no prior knowledge about ComDev as a discipline, and especially what it offered as a career trajectory. But, it has proved to be a real-life changing and career-defining experience in more ways than one. My cohort was composed of some really amazing and talented individuals from different parts of the world who were – and still are – doing very relevant work in the international development field with notable organizations.  Their knowledge and experience helped shape my subsequent entry into communication, media and development work.
Prior to this, I had had a stint in banking (with an undergraduate degree in Banking and Finance) in my native country of Ghana. The off-campus structure of ComDev enabled me to concurrently obtain real-life development experience through internships and travel in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana over the period. The degree most certainly impacted my landing my first postgraduate communications-related gig as a Communications Officer on the USAID-funded ICFG program in the Western Region of Ghana. Since then, the sky really has been the limit and I have worked as a science communicator, strategic communications specialist/consultant, copy editor and researcher with the likes of TJNA, Scriptoria UK, Kindling Strategy, Open Knowledge Foundation and Mekong Institute, and have had very rewarding experiences with these organizations at their bases in Kenya, UK, and Thailand respectively.

My ComDev Degree Project also inspired a deep interest in research, and in 2012 I gained a scholarship to undertake a PhD study into online newsmaking in the contexts of UK and South Africa, at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston and which I successfully defended in March 2015. I was also able to do some research on open access and open data when I was awarded the prestigious Google Policy Fellowship in 2013.
Today, as a Program Director with Internews Network, and the Head of Communications of Contra Nocendi International, I get to fully utilize both the MA and PhD educations from Malmö University and UCLan towards supporting media development and advocacy in parts of Asia and Africa respectively. It is a good place to be professionally, and I’m very happy I took this chance back in 2009.
My special thanks go to the faculty team at ComDev and K3 for their noteworthy devotion and to the support of all ComDev students, which made it a real positive learning experience for me!

Alumna Sally Deffor spoke to our student assistant Yahneake Sterling.

More information about our MA programs and free-standing courses are also on the portal; the application deadline for autumn 2017 is 18 April, the Tuesday after the Easter holidays.

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