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Balancing Act

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to the blog post Balancing Results-Based Management with People-based Processes:

"I fully agree that the focus on results should not be so obsessive as to lose the enduring value of Communication for Development (C4D), namely its ability to facilitate and promote engagement between real people and communities, as a process. The World Bank's Development Communication team has been quite successful in selling this to the Bank mandarins, but on the basis of communication’s ability to help deliver concrete results, not on the basis of communication as a process. The array of tools and innovations your team has developed (communication-based assessment, etc) and the concrete proposals it has made towards integrating communication into the Bank’s operations provide others with a strong basis for making the case in their respective agencies.

As with the Bank, the reality in the UN system and in other inter-governmental organizations is that convincing the higher-ups about communication as a process is a hard sell. They want to see concrete deliverables. The Round Table is a nice place where friends meet to share ideas and forge collaboration. It has grown organically and is in a good place right now in terms of its broadened participation and the level of sophistication of its thinking. That said, it is fair to say its impact on communication thinking and practice in the UN system has been limited. I would even go so far as saying that the World Congress on C4D made more impact that the many years of RTs.

Part of the problem is the dysfunctional nature of the UN system, which we all understand. But part of it is that we have not been able as communicators to find tangible ways of embedding C4D into the systems and processes of the UN – something you at the Bank have done well to achieve. In researching the assignment for OECD on communicating results it occurred to me that results, however prone to instrumentalization, are providing an unprecedented entry point for C4D in OECD. Given that the UN system is similarly obsessed with managing for development results (MfDR), focusing on communicating results could be a way of getting communicators a seat at the table.

In February I presented by background paper on managing and communicating development results at the Joint Venture on MfDR as well as to OECD aid agency communicators. I made a strong case for the inseparability of communicating about results and communicating for results – the former being external relations-type communication aimed at donor publics, and the latter being what we call C4D. The JV MfDR has now included an operational task on ‘Improving Results Reporting in Donor Agencies’ in its new program of work, as I am sure Steffen Beitz, co-ordinator of the OECD DevCom network, will have told the RT. Among other things, this will allow the DevCom network to undertake pilots in selected countries on how to integrate C4D into projects/ programs, especially those involving budget support or sector wide approaches – identified as a major challenge for results communication. To me, this opens a big door to demonstrate the value-added of C4D, and provides an important lesson for the UN system as it seeks to be more effective on the ground.

Ultimately, no one can shake our conviction that C4D is about people, and that the process is as valuable as the outcome and impact. The challenge is finding ways to sell this credo to others."

Peter da Costa


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