10th Anniversary

August 30, 2010 · 0 comments

Welcome to ComDev’s 10-year Anniversary!

By: Jason Hallman and Susan Hayden

Malmö University’s ComDev course is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Here we applaud its achievements, reflect on its past and consider the future of this important and growing field. Whether you are an alumnus of the course, a prospective student or just interested in the topic, we hope you’ll will enjoy this tribute.

Happy anniversary! – Joyeux anniversaire! – Feliz aniversario! – С юбилеем! – 周年快乐

I took the very first ComDev course in 2000. I was about to move from Sweden to Switzerland and was looking for a way to use my background as a newspaper journalist while shifting to a more international career. The ComDev course seemed like the perfect solution, with its distance learning features and the opportunity to gain some field experience (read full testimonial).

Rosita Ericsson

ComDev, a pioneer in its field
This is a moment for pause and celebration as the ComDev master’s course contemplates its progression and journey over the past decade from 2000-2010. A pioneer in its field, ComDev’s ground-breaking usage of ICT in the form of Skype and webcams has overcome the obstacle of ‘place’ by enabling students from all over the world to attain this advantageous education without leaving their homes. This has meant that ComDev’s unique, interdisciplinary approach to the fields of communication and development has been made accessible to individuals from all over the world who gather in cyberspace to explore the most pertinent academic and practical questions about the role of communication processes in development cooperation. Due to the fact that the entire course can be conducted online with seminars broadcast live in a ‘virtual classroom’ scenario, ComDev’s students come from opposite corners of the globe with very diverse backgrounds and specializations in different fields to be schooled in the latest theories on development cooperation. Journalists, communicators and individuals working in different sectors of development are taught about the importance of implementing participatory processes, giving ‘voice’ to the voiceless, and increasing the collective efficacy of marginalised communities, all the while contributing their own experience and skills and learning from their interactions with each other.

The course was extremely helpful because it exposed me to the latest thinking in development communication, helping me to question and investigate ‘development’ in a much more informed way. I became more critical of various aspects of foreign aid, and the alternative views about development presented during the course-work prompted me to put together an anthology written mainly by East Africans who were dissatisfied with the way “development” was being practised in their countries (read full testimonial).

Rasna Warah

The ‘transparent’ nature of the course and the open ‘platforms’ offered on its site for chatting and interacting with fellow-students and teachers encourage participation in debates, collective problem-solving and provide a highly enriching forum for mulling over issues and concerns relating to this dynamic and motivating field. As well as cutting new paths in emerging areas around governance, climate change, and peace and security studies, ComDev students are encouraged to critically evaluate techno-utopianism and the technological advances altering the shape of development discourse, while in a very practical manner, experiencing the potential of ITCs to connect, unify and transcend time and place.

Having worked in the field of development for many years, I was able to learn about communication and development theories through ComDev without losing focus of the difficulties of applying them in practice. It helped me to approach the issue of development from a post-colonialist perspective, and challenged some of my perceptions, forcing me to see social change in a different light (read full testimonial).

Jordi de Miguel Capell

Celebrate on the 10-11 of September 2010
The Anniversary Celebration weekend, which takes place in Malmö on the weekend of the 10th to the 11th of September 2010, acknowledges the obstacles the ComDev course has overcome and celebrates the many achievements it has enjoyed since its inception in the year 2000. As well as being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ex-students to reconnect with staff-members, fellow alumni and friends, the weekend’s exciting programme includes some not-to-be missed presentations by researchers, authors and graduates who have been invited from all the world to take the podium to share their insights and experiences in working in development cooperation. For anyone with an interest in the field, the Anniversary gathering promises to be a smorgasbord of inspiring talks, thought-provoking perspectives and fascinating real-life forays into the complexities of development cooperation as it is conceived and practiced today. The two-day programme will culminate in a film, a panel discussion on the next ten years that lie ahead and, finally, the opportunity to enjoy a glass of champagne, a delicious dinner and celebrate having been a part of an incredible learning venture. As we say in Sweden, ‘skål!’

With a background in literary criticism, my interest is in story-telling and the ability of fiction to mirror reality. As a white South African, I have always being intrigued by the power of the written word to challenge and subvert the ‘truth’, and with Comdev’s focus on South Africa and inclusion of a literary component, I had the option of exploring this in the context of the country’s recent political changes. The course gave me a new understanding of the challenges Africa faces under the forces of globalisation, and of the power of responsible media to effect change (read full testimonial).

Susan Hayden

A few words by Oscar Hemer – head of program

Oscar Hemer is associate professor in Journalism and Literary Creation at Malmö University, head of the ComDev master program and co-founder of Ørecomm

In the 1990s, it was a fairly general assumption that development communication or communication for development had passed its zenith sometime in the ‘70s and become obsolete, just like everything else that was associated with ‘development’ and the ‘third world’. Hence, the timing for planning a ComDev master may have seemed a little odd. On the other hand, the turn of the millennium was a perfect moment for radical revision of everything, and right from the start in 2000, we made globalization and the emerging network society the framework for the renewed analysis of both communication and development.

For many consecutive years, the ComDev master students in Malmö had a ‘baptism of fire’ struggling with Manuel Castells’ trilogy on the information age (not all of it, but the substantial part of all three volumes). Many grumbled at first, but most were eventually convinced that it was a great eye-opening introduction to the rapidly changing contemporary world. Castells covered everything, but he paid surprisingly little attention to media and communications. That analysis had to be retrieved elsewhere. It is a curious coincidence that Castells is now making a grand comeback on the core reading list – and with a sequel work that really puts communication in the centre of the analysis: Communication Power. As he puts it: “Power in the network society is communication power.”

I was able to do the entire ComDev course online from Zambia which meant I could continue with my full-time job. An interesting and challenging part of the course was that it brought students together from very different parts of the world, and we interacted, though the different course modules, as if we were in the same room. I learnt a lot, both socially and intellectually from these on-line interactions (read full testimonial).

Stanslous Chewe

Another striking current tendency in the world-at-large is the return of the development state. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the very notion of development was dismissed by both the dominant neo-liberal paradigm and the emerging global movements of environmental protection and civilization critique. To neo-liberals, deregulation and structural adjustment was the panacea to growth and prosperity, while development policies comprised an undesired interference in the mechanisms of the market. To the academic ‘post-development’ school of thought, development, as such, was the obstacle to positive change in the ‘third world’, since it was seen to perpetuate ruthless exploitation and colonial power relations.

ComDev gave me the opportunity to reflect on my practice as a film producer, and more broadly my concerns and interest regarding participatory communication. When I first travelled to Sweden for one of the course’s seminar in 2003, some of the encounters –people I met then- would turn out to be life changing –and in subsequent years and seminars the course has remained a unique ‘space’ for the development of meaningful friendships and collaborations (read full testimonial).

Florencia Enghel

Post-development ideas were actually fairly influential in the re-orientation of communication for development towards a focus on local communities and empowerment. Compared to the early development communication efforts, which mainly involved agricultural extension support, the field has gradually shifted its emphasis from development to communication, which is no longer regarded merely as a means but as an end in itself, by its participatory process. There is, in fact, an ongoing debate within the field as to whether the term ‘development’ should be abolished altogether, and replaced by ‘social change’ or ‘empowerment’. Now, after the demise of neo-liberalism in the global financial crisis, development politics are at the fore once again, and perhaps we are witnessing a ‘development turn’ in communication for development, too. In their revealing study, Communication for Another Development, Wendy Quarry and Ricardo Ramirez come to the conclusion that we have in fact been looking at the wrong end of the stick; “it is not good communication that makes good development; it is good development that breeds good communication”. This should however not be interpreted as a dismissal of the importance of communication, or a call for abandoning the participatory ideal. Communication can certainly help create the conditions for change. But, say Quarry and Ramirez, we first need a compelling case for healthy development programs, projects and organizations. Communication will only sprout when the conditions are right. (Then, of course, the sequel question immediately arises: What is good development? You can read more about this issue in Glocal Times no 11)

ComDev was exactly what I needed to become an authority in the field of development. The idea of online interactive learning impressed me, and I made some great connections with people from all over the globe, and enjoyed meeting my fellow-students in Malmö, Sweden. Once I had completed the ComDev course, it took me only one-and-half years to become an expatriate with the United Nations (read full testimonial).

Clever Maputseni

The renewed prominence of both communication and development ought to imply an excellent future for this interdisciplinary field of integrated theory and practice, and I am quite sure that time is on our side. Yet we are still pioneers, fighting to convince governments, media directors, business corporations, donors and NGOs of what, to us, is evident: that communication is the key to participatory processes of social change and development. There is clearly a rising interest in media and communication within international development cooperation, but it seemed to temporarily lose momentum after the ambitious yet not-very-successful Rome conference in 2006, and communication is yet to become a prioritized means to achieve the Millennium Goals.
Looking another ten years ahead, it is easy to foresee that the world will be faced with ever- more severe communication challenges, which today’s development agents are poorly prepared to meet. The main challenge, to put it provocatively, may in fact be to overcome the obstacle of the development industry itself.

I was able to do the entire ComDev course online from Mozambique, which was almost a miracle. The course brings together students from all over the world, and I learnt a lot from my interactions with people who have a lot of experience in the development field. For my project, I looked at the role of traditional healers in HIV/Aids dialogue, and in this regard I had the opportunity to gain knowledge about HIV/Aids communication in a developing country and what works best (read full testimonial).

Beate Ramme-Fülle

A few words by Thomas Tufte, co-founder of Ørecomm

Thomas Tufte is professor in Communication Studies at Roskilde University and co-founder of Ørecomm

In the last decade, the world has experienced a radical moment of change; intensified economic and cultural globalisation, climate change with all its challenges, 9/11 and a transformed world order, technological revolution with the new social media…and in the midst of all this a proliferation of social movements and mobilisation of citizens responding to this process of change: assembling at the world social fora, organizing net-based insurgencies and the like. Citizenship and social change, media development and communication power have become core concepts in many contemporary debates. In this context, the Communication for Development programme at Malmö University has evolved and established itself as a very timely interdisciplinary response to world development challenges. In the decade that passed it began as a pioneer of its kind, and soon became an international leader in the field. Today, ten years later, we see similar programmes emerging all over the place. The challenge for Malmö in the next decade will be to constantly keep in touch with the world that surrounds it, solidify its research basis, continue to expand its large international network, and continue to be a strong node of integrated research and practice in communication and development. Congratulations on the first ten years!

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