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.

We always like to hear from our graduates about their ComDev study experience. We recently talked to three graduates with a connection to the UN system; this time, out student assistant Yahneake Sterling sat down with Rosita Ericsson, an alumna from the very first ComDev MA cohort!

My name is Rosita Ericsson and I graduated from the very first ComDev class 2000-2002, when the course was still in its pilot phase. Although the course has matured and the field of study developed since then it was already a one-of-a- kind experience which significantly changed my professional path. I had just moved from Sweden to Switzerland with my new baby (now a high school student with a punk attitude) and my hope was that ComDev would add an international touch to my CV and provide an entry point to the rich international development opportunities that Geneva offers.

At first, ComDev was a real culture shock. I arrived from one of the oldest, most traditional universities in Sweden, and a field of study (political science) where staying within the boundaries of the disciplinary discourse seemed more important than the actual analysis. At ComDev we were just instructed to be creative and explore new ways of thinking – all very confusing to me. But as I started navigating through the constantly evolving field of communication for development I began to feel that I had maybe found my thing. I had previously worked as a newspaper journalist and took an interest in the role of mass media in social change. For my thesis I brought my then toddler to Senegal and Burkina Faso for a study on children’s participation in a regional radio campaign on children’s rights. My local supervisor at Plan International’s West Africa Office cleverly used the results of my research to fundraise for new media projects and I got a series of consultancy contracts for Plan to work on enhancing children’s participation in conception, production and monitoring and evaluation of media initiatives.

This was the entry point I needed. I got a job as a project officer at a Geneva based NGO and became involved in the preparations of the first World Summit on the Information Society, to help ensure a substantial participation of journalists from the global South. Having the ComDev perspective also proved to be highly useful when I later moved to Vietnam to work within the technical assistance team for a Sida-funded programme at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
I realised two things: First, that governmental agencies for international cooperation not necessarily had any expertise or even understanding about communication for development and, secondly, that Vietnam had nothing remotely resembling the social movements and grassroots’ organisations in Latin America and Africa, which we had discussed and studied in Malmö. But to me, ComDev is most of all an attitude: my studies had given me methodologies and ways of approaching development objectives that definitively helped me – and made our projects better.

The ComDev course opened the door to some very enriching experiences and has played an important role in my professional life. For several years I kept in close touch with several of the other students from my class, and with the course itself as a supervisor for later students in their thesis projects. I am now working in a more traditional communications position for a human rights organisation. Even if it’s further away from the field of study, I still have my ComDev attitude, helping me to keep our projects firmly grounded in local priorities and perspectives!

If you are interested in applying for one of our programs our courses, e.g. the flagship two-year part-time online blended learning MA, our free-standingAdvances in ComDev‘ course or add a second year of studies to your completed one-year MA, there is plenty of information on the ComDev portal!

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ComDev alumnus Shahriar Khonsari exhibits photographs in Finland

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Last year, Shahriar Khonsari completed his MA in Communication for Development at Malmö University. ComDev’s Tobias Denskus took Shahriar’s current exhibition in Helsinki as an opportunity to catch up with him and the work he is doing on Afghan refugees in Iran.  Tell us a little bit about the background of your work.  – For the last ten years […]

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