Sustainable development interventions are very often initiated by organizations and policy-makers from outside a community.
Many well-intentioned communication projects of this sort turn out to be efforts at manipulation that result in little or no participation by the people concerned. Instead, such initiatives should focus more on how to listen than on how to talk (see Ramirez 1997).
Nothing goes without changes in practice and that this change cannot do without social action facilitated on a horizontal level, mostly by means of interpersonal and group communication. Horizontal models of communication (communicator – dialogue – communicator) alone proved limited.
Communication begins by learning to learn about existing knowledge and hopes. Listening requires skill and respect, deriving meaning from different media: e.g. elder’s anecdotes and oral history, artists’ symbols, songs and poetry, traditional theatre and puppetry.
Communication is about bridging understanding towards shared meaning.
Experience and research show that using a combination of mass, group and interpersonal communication is most cost-effective.
A communication strategy usually has various information, educational and communication objectives. Different media and communication channels complement and reinforce each other.
Vertical models of communication (sender – media – receiver) and related centrally planned development strategies alone proved incapable of solving today‘s burning problems.
Communication and education techniques can enhance the effectiveness of people or groups seeking to participate.
The task of maintaining continuous relationships with local stakeholders should be maintained by a regular series of events such as a weekly or monthly radio program, or a theatre group performing at ceremonies or local social occasions in which people expect to hear news about the environmental initiative.
A regular newsletter in the local language is another possibility if it is comprehensible to local people and addresses matters of interest to them.
This can be achieved by involving local people in the preparation of the newsletter and other events to enrich and test the effectiveness of the chosen communication tools and avenues.
People’s participation not only improves the program and adds credibility, but also strengthens their skills to do similar work in the future.