ComDev students and alumni are based around the world and work in many different fields where they apply their communication for development knowledge and skills.
As the application round for the 1-year MA for spring 2017 is now open between 15 September and 15 October we asked three of our alumni to share reflections on combining and applying their studies in the context of the United Nation system, a major organizational family that employs different approaches to Communication for Development, also known as C4D.
Riikka (Finland/Bhutan), Sajy (Palestine) and Nora (Germany/Nepal) talked to ComDev program coordinator Tobias Denskus and program assistant Samah Ahmad about interpreting ComDev in their work in Asia and the Middle East.
Riikka Suhonnen, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Thimpu, Bhutan
My name is Riikka Suhonnen, I am from Finland, and my background is in African Studies and Development Studies. From 2013 to 2015 I worked as a UN Volunteer in Bhutan, in roles of National Coordinator and Communication and Resource Mobilization Officer.
Doing my ComDev Master’s thesis on youth civic engagement in Bhutan had definite, although partly unintended synergies with my work tasks
In my UNV role at the Secretariat for New Development Paradigm, I worked on an international project that focused on happiness and UN’s new post-2015 development agenda. My task was to ensure that people would be engaged in this discussion on happiness, well-being and development goals, especially young Bhutanese. We organized participatory workshops for different target groups including young people. Doing my ComDev Master’s thesis on youth civic engagement in Bhutan had definite, although partly unintended synergies with my work tasks. Coincidentally, youth volunteerism was the theme for the International Volunteer Day in 2013 that we organized together with several youth organizations in Bhutan.
We wanted to raise discussion with young people on issues they thought were important
The UN’s MyWorld survey – a kind of simple C4D tool to collect people’s views on development – served as a facilitation tool for deeper reflection and participatory activities. We wanted to raise discussion with young people on issues they thought were important, ranging from health to education and employment, and to inspire youth to make positive change happen in their own communities.
It was fascinating to see how this specific C4D method worked in practice
The UNDP in Bhutan trailed online game-based approach to search for new solutions for youth unemployment in the country. This innovation project was facilitated by Emerson College’s Engagement Lab in Boston. It was fascinating to see how this specific C4D method worked in practice – in a country with slow internet and very unequal opportunities to access internet in general.
ComDev background provides a useful theoretical framework to reflect on the core questions of development
At the end of my UNV assignment, I was very lucky to participate in a five-day edutainment training offered for Bhutanese media organizations and NGOs. The training was led by Professor Martine Bouman from Centre for Media and Health, and Professor Arvind Singhal – both experienced C4D researchers and practitioners with so many stories to share. Not only in this training, but in general, many colleagues at different UN agencies were curious about the programme in Malmö, and ComDev approach in general. I feel that ComDev background provides a useful theoretical framework to reflect on the core questions of development: why and for whom are we doing this – and how do we know what people actually need?
Sajy Elmughanni, Communication and Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF, Ramallah, Palestine
My name is Sajy Elmughanni, I have been working in the development field for almost 10 years. I gained a BSc degree in Computer Systems Engineering and MSs in Information Management Systems from the University of Houston- Clear Lake, United States. I am currently working as a Communication and Communication for Development Officer in UNICEF State of Palestine.
While working in my current role, I felt I lacked that theoretical Communication for Development background
While working in my current role, I felt I lacked that theoretical Communication for Development background and that is what attracted me to the ComDev course, as well as I felt it was relevant to my work in UNICEF.
The degree has proved to be much more valuable than what I have originally thought
Delving into development cooperation, analyzing media and culture, grasping the role of ICT in development and many more interesting communication for development topics were a great additions to my knowledge and to my career in ComDev with UNICEF. The degree has proved to be much more valuable than what I have originally thought.
The virtual classroom was amazing, it felt like you are in with the rest of the students in Malmö
Aside from the academic value, the course was customized in a way that made it very convenient for someone like me who works in a very tough and demanding environment. I was very convenient for me to follow the live lectures from any place where internet connection is available. Even when I had missed them, the live lectures were reordered by the course admin so I can conveniently watch them later. The virtual classroom was amazing, it felt like you are in with the rest of the students in Malmö. I was able to ask my instructor questions, comment on some discussions and even I was involved in a work group where some of us where online and some others were physically in the classroom in Malmö University.
I am proud to have completed my MA from Malmö University in ComDev
Despite my busy schedule and my frequent travel missions in my work, I was able to stay on top of things thanks for the convenient course structure. I was very much impressed with the level of guidance that we I had on ways to approach the course.
I am proud to have completed my MA from Malmö University in ComDev, it was a very rich and rewarding experience.
Nora Wegner, UNESCO, Kathmandu, Nepal
My name is Nora Wegner, and am currently working as a DAAD Carlo-Schmid-Fellow in the education unit of the UNESCO field office in Kathmandu, Nepal; my academic background is in Political Science and Development Studies.
C4D is a field sensitises us on important theoretical knowledge and reflections about the structure and systems of the development sector
My motivation to embark on an additional Master’s degree was that C4D is a field that is highly relevant for and can be applied in basically all development sectors, as it sensitises us on the one hand on important theoretical knowledge and reflections about the structure and systems of the development sector, and provides us on the other hand with hands-on communication tools, which are applicable not only within projects on the ground, but also useful in order to convey messages on the topic of “development” between the so called Global South and North. UNESCO is mostly working on policy level within the field of education. I realised that it helps a great deal to incorporate a C4D perspective into my work, as it provides me with a deeper understanding of arising issues as well as with new points of views and ideas.
Formal education becomes accessible even for marginalised ethnic and linguistic groups
Nepal features an incredible diversity with regard to traditions, ethnicities as well as languages. To be able to provide meaningful and useful education in such a context it is important to reflect on the questions: What will be incorporated into the curriculum, and how will this knowledge be imparted, in order to awaken the interest and create a chance for everybody within society to participate in education? The goal is to create educational programs that respect and accommodate the different realities and circumstances of its population. One example is the initiative to offer primary education in the different mother tongues spoken in Nepal, so that formal education becomes accessible even for marginalised ethnic and linguistic groups. Another component is to leave space within the curricula to encourage the teaching about local/indigenous knowledge, traditions and customs.
It is much more interactive than other online programs….the teaching team manages to engage and maintain the motivation of the students
The possibility to complete the studies online gives us students a great deal of flexibility and is therefore, in my opinion, one of the main advantages of the programe. While studying the programe I have been living in Malmö, Hamburg and now Kathmandu. To be physically bound to your place of studies will always have an impact on the choices that you take with regards to other aspects of life, such as personal or career related. At the same time it is much more interactive than other online programes. Like this the teaching team manages to engage and maintain the motivation of the students, even though it is often very challenging to combine studies and work.