Student work

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 

riikkasuhonenMy 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

sajyelmughanniMy 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 

norawegnerMy 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.

Our ComDev 15th anniversary seminar is nicely taking shape and we would like to take the opportunity of returning from our summer vacation to share some updates with you. Below is the draft program for the 1.5 days in September. Our post from before the summer break outlines the rationale behind the seminar with some details. We also awarded the alumni travel grants and we are expecting a fantastic group of alumni, new students and colleagues from around the ComDev universe.

If you have not filled out the registration form yet, please do so. It helps us to keep track of numbers and we will send those who expressed their interest a message with a few more details, encouraging you to share your ComDev, C4D, professional and/our academic insights with us. The #ComDev15 hashtag will be ‘soft-launched’ these days and you can always contact us @mahcomdev or through the comdev(AT) email.

ComDev 15th anniversary event, Malmö Högskola, 18-19 September 2015 (Program PDF version)

Friday 18 September

8:45-9:15: Registration & mingle ‘Niagara’ building, 5th floor landing

9:15-9:30: Welcome, & overview of the day (ComDev team)

9:30-10:30: Morning keynote Vicensia Shule (University of Dar es Salaam/TZ): Communication and Democracy-The role technology in enhancing citizens’ participation in monitoring and observing electoral processes in Tanzania

10:30-11:00: Coffee break

11:00-12:00: Participatory introduction of alumni, students & participants

12:00-1:15: Lunch (Niagara)


1:15-2:15 Around the world ComDev-style: Input from alumni

2:15-3:45 C4D Network panel & discussion Celebrities and the development industry (Lisa Richey, Roskilde University/DK, Annika Bergman Rosamond, University of Lund/SE, Tobias Denskus (ComDev)

3:45: 4:30 Coffee & cake break

4:30-5:00 Glocal Times 10th anniversary special issue (Florencia Enghel & Oscar Hemer (ComDev)

5:00-5:45 How will we celebrate ComDev’s 25th anniversary? Reflections on the future of C4D (Tobias Denskus (ComDev)

6:00-6:45 Evening keynote Thomas Hylland Eriksson (University of Oslo/NO): Culture as a commons of humanity

7:00-9:00 Dinner Niagara

Saturday 19 September

9:30-10:00: Coffee & mingle (Orkanen)

10:00-11:30 Media, Globalization & Development-a discussion on ComDev’s core themes and how they are relevant in the future
(Susanne Schech (Flinders University/AUS), Thomas Hylland Eriksson (University of Oslo/NO), Michael Krona (Malmö University/SE). Hugo Boothby (ComDev)

11:30-12:15 Around the world ComDev–style II: Input from alumni & students

12:15-1:15 Lunch (KP Brasserie)

1:30-2:45 PhD research panel
(Erliza Lopez Pedersen (Malmö University/SE), Jonas Agerbäck Jeppesen (Roskilde University/DK), Molly Schwartz (Malmö University/SE), Mery Perez (Guelph University (CA), Johanna Stenersen (Örebro University (SE)

1:30–2:30 ComDev Degree Project examination seminar (parallel session) (Tobias Denskus)

In his guest post, Italian ComDev student Adriano Pedrana shares his reflections on the Milano-based Hacking Team’s recent hack and why it matters for the development and ICT4D community.

Hacking Team being hacked. The news that the company that had specialized in providing spyware to governments and police forces was targeted by anonymous hackers broke last week. New details emerge as people go through 400 GB of their private data (mail, source code etc.) which have been hacked and made public, and some already predict that all that will remain of this company will be their video ad, which makes clear visual reference to the Anonymous hacker movement.

Hacking Team Commercial 3One of the things I regret about this piece of news is that it arrived with bad timing, when the Greek economic crisis captures everybody’s attention. Nevertheless there has been good news coverage. And there have already been some official reactions, such as an inspection by Italy’s data protection authorities (link in Italian) and a case being opened by a public prosecutor (whether against the hack or Hacking Team itself remains open at this stage).

The Hacking Team spokesperson stated that their software has now become a weapon in the hands of terrorist groups, an argument that Pedro Vilaça, an IT researcher, has called “PR bullshit”.

Hacking Team also asked their customers to stop using their software – though, some say, they could have done it themselves through a speculated backdoor under their control, which, if proved right, would give a huge monitoring power to a private company. Hacking team has denied the existence of such a backdoor in a press release on 8th July 2015.

What has this story to do with international development and ICT4D? After all, Hacking Team products were (said to be) used by police forces and governments solely against organized crime (with remarkable results, if we have to believe the software house’s official information). But the story behind the scenes seems to be a bit different.

The starting point is that software is not an innocent, long string of 1s and 0s. Some computer programs can definitely be used as a weapon as well. And this is not something new. In the 1990s, the US Export Regulations prohibited free trade of strong cryptographic software. Among other things, these rules blocked the legal spreading of the de-facto cryptographic standard PGP. To circumvent them, PGP inventor Philip Zimmermann had to print the whole software code in 12 books. In this form he could then send them abroad legally under the US First Amendment (the one protecting the freedom of speech). The books were then scanned abroad and reconverted to code lines. So the software could be reconstructed and distributed in a legal way all over the world (for more information about this story, click here). Nowadays US rules are more relaxed about cryptography, but they still prohibit some goods to be exported or sold to specific countries or people (further information here).

The UN also bans the export of certain products through ad hoc resolutions, and the EU has done the same. Most of these bans, though, are linked to weapon and weapon related products. But what about the type of software produced by Hacking Team? According to Privacy International, the UN consider this software as a weapon and have been investigating specifically on Hacking Team about a supply to intelligence in Sudan, which is subject to international embargo. Privacy International says that Hacking Team declared having stopped cooperating with Sudan at the end of 2014, though they have never replied on a specific UN request about their previous cooperation with government in Khartoum. Now, thanks to the hack it seems that there is proof of this cooperation with this and with other more or less oppressive regimes. Hacking Team staff internally labeled cooperation with Sudan and Russia as “not officially supported“, a sign that they were probably aware of various grey areas.

According to some news articles (here is one, in Italian), Hacking Team also lobbied the Italian Government in order to lift a ban on their products being exported because of EU regulations. They were successful, showing to have more than one ‘friend’ in the world of politics. This may also be one of the reasons why Hacking Team has been financed by the regional government of Lombardy, through Finlombardia Gestioni a venture capital fund aimed at companies based in the region. You can see the name of Hacking Team appearing in Finlombardia’s investment porfolio.

Moreover, Citizen Lab has published extensive material that suggests that Hacking Team products were used to spy on journalists, the media and dissidents.

These are some of the links between Hacking Team scandal and international development, human rights and foreign policy. What could happen now? Hacking Team is trying to save their business and fight back. Its CEO has accused Wikileaks’ founder Julian Asssange (where his company’s email are freely searchable): “he should be arrested, he is the bad guy”.
On a more general basis, as Tobias Denskus has pointed out on his blog, the Hacking Team story has all the ingredients to trigger an interesting debate, as well as, hopefully, some change in the way legislation is applied to this type of digital weapons. The end result could be a better consistency between EU, development and human rights discourses and the practice of exporting technology and software which have a real potential to undermine said policies.

My personal opinion (for what it’s worth) is that all this fuss will instead distract the attention from other, lesser known companies working in the same field. After the scapegoat is sacrificed to the altar of the media outrage, the survivors will be able to go on “business-as-usual”, with the extra advantage of sharing a probably considerable pool of former Hacking Team clients, who will also be eager to continue doing what they have done ’till now, no questions asked.
Nor answered.

This post is an edited version of a post Adriano shared on LinkedIn. We are always interested in guest blog posts and comments from students, alumni & friends-so please feel free to comment below or get in touch with us directly!

‘Learning for change’ conference: ComDev student reflections on online learning

by Tobias Denskus May 26, 2015 ComDev lectures

ComDev student Muhammad Al-Waeli participated online in the ‘Learning for Change’ conference hosted by the Nelson Mandela Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania. We re-publish his reflections that originated from discussions on our itslearning platform and his subsequent blog post. Muhammad’s reflections are not only relevant in the context of the Glocal Classroom […]

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Competition on New Media Activism organised by ComDev students!

by Rebecca Bengtsson March 12, 2014 ComDev

One of the groups on the ComDev New Media, ICT and Development course is organising a competition as part of their group assignment on New Media Activism: “all you need to do is think of the most interesting new media activist idea or why not, the best one gone bad and create a short article […]

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Minor Field Study grants – Application Deadline April 1st

by Hugo Boothby February 26, 2014 Comdev News

We encourage ComDev students to apply for the Minor Field Study Grants (MFS) offered by SIDA (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). Malmö University have 30 grants that can be awarded to students that are conducting research for their final degree projects in, so called, developing countries. Grants are for 25 000 SEK. Unfortunately these […]

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New Book: Speaking Up and Talking Back?

by Hugo Boothby February 28, 2013 Alumni

Speaking Up and Talking Back? Media Empowerment and Civic Engagement among East and Southern African Youth is a new book edited by Örecomm participants Thomas Tufte, Norbert Wildermuth, Anne Sofie Hansen-Skovmoes and Winnie Mitullah. Published by Nordicom as a yearbook from the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media, this book surveys and explores the […]

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ComDev Degree Project Work Seminars 22-24 May

by May 18, 2012 Comdev News

ComDev students that have submitted their degree project work for examination this term will present them orally in the period 22 – 24 May 2012. The presentations will be on a 90% completed draft version which will not be graded yet. During the oral presentations the students will receive feedback and comments from a fellow […]

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Rosalind Yarde – Theory Proved in Practice – From ComDev thesis to continuing project

by Hugo Boothby May 19, 2011 Alumni

ComDev09 students are now finishing up their final thesis projects ready for submission on Monday. A ComDev thesis often involves original field research and enables students to apply theory in practice. This is exactly what ComDev08 alumnus Rosalind Yarde did when she conducted her field research for her final masters thesis with Mkombozi, an NGO in Moshi, […]

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Comic for Development

by Hugo Boothby May 6, 2011 Comdev10

Students studying the Communication, Culture and Media Analysis course with ComDev this spring were asked to produce a report on a significant player within the Communication for Development field. In this report students discussed the chosen organization’s approach to ComDev and reflected critically on the organization’s Communication for Development plans and strategies. As part of […]

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