Introducing the Evaluating Communicating for Development (C4D) Resource Hub

Jessica Noske-Turner
C4D Principles Diagram merged with colours of the BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework

In this blog post, Jessica Noske-Turner introduces a newly launched section of the BetterEvaluation website - the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub - and discusses how and why this new area was developed.

Communication for Development (also referred to as Development Communication and Communication for Social Change, or ‘C4D’) is an interdisciplinary field of research and practice that focuses on engagement and dialogue using range of media and methods (for example, video, radio, community dialogue meetings, extension workers, entertainment education). C4D seeks to generate meaningful social change through listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, debating and learning, with a goal of enhancing positive social change.

The newly launched C4D Hub is designed to help practitioners make informed choices about approaches and tools for research, monitoring and evaluation (RM&E) that are consistent with the values and needs of Communication for Development (C4D). An online resource, housed on BetterEvaluation, it contains a growing collection of curated guides, toolkits, tools and methods for RM&E of C4D initiatives. The C4D Hub combines BetterEvaluation’s Rainbow Framework with the C4D Evaluation Framework which sets out the core components and principles of C4D (Lennie and Tacchi, 2013).

Lennie and Tacchi, 2013

The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub was developed over a three-year Participatory Action Research project with eight UNICEF offices (Headquarters, and Country Offices in Vietnam, India, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office). The ambition was to operationalise the conceptual framework for evaluating C4D developed by June Lennie and Jo Tacchi (Evaluating Communication for Development: A framework for social change, 2013), which aims to bridge the divide between adaptive and participatory evaluation approaches, and the more dominant accountability-driven, results-based approaches. The principles underpinning this approach to C4D value participation, inclusion and local knowledge. C4D often encompasses intangible and interconnected social changes, that are difficult to predict and are ideally community driven. The project was designed to engage with the tensions between the principles that Lennie and Tacchi argued should underpin evaluation of C4D, and the dominant logics of evaluation within the development sector, which increasingly demands ‘measurable results’ within specified time-periods.

Preliminary research with UNICEF C4D indicated that although practitioners knew that there were many approaches and toolkits available for evaluation, it was rather overwhelming to navigate them and to decide which was the most appropriate.

During a scoping research phase, we visited and ran workshops with each participating team. The workshops included mapping and planning processes, identifying current practices and contexts, and opportunities for change and collaborative work. We learned that some offices were already doing interesting work that reflected the principles of the C4D Evaluation Framework. We learned about some of the organisational barriers that C4D teams face when using non-mainstream approaches. We also learned how diverse the different contexts were, in terms of approaches to communication, relationships with national government and other implementing partners. These contexts had a significant influence over the different needs of different teams.

A few opportunities arose to collaborate or lead on research and evaluation studies. In Vietnam, collaborating with a local consultant gave us shared experiences of the hurdles all practitioners would need to overcome when doing evaluations. It was a positive experience, and the report was well received, but also brought our attention to how the expectations of different stakeholders (consultants, governments, programme teams, M&E teams), together with budgetary limitations, make introducing unfamiliar and time-intensive methods ambitious.

The first iteration of the ‘resource’ was a fairly linear guide, modelled on BetterEvaluation’s Manager’s Guide. This was in response to our understanding that UNICEF typically commissions studies, and so getting that part of the process right would yield significant results. However, at a workshop in UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) we realised that a linear ‘guide’ was not going to work since we needed something far more flexible. Different staff picked up projects at different stages, and they rarely had the luxury of designing a project and evaluation and seeing it through to its conclusion. The resource needed to be more than another toolkit.

Another breakthrough came by trialling some of the resources for designing an evaluation framework with UNICEF and government counterparts in Vietnam. There were several aspects of the resources that did not work well, culturally and technically. The resources were too long and complex, requiring a skilled consultant just to help navigate them.

During this quite low moment, when nothing was working and everything seemed too hard, we made a significant change that would turn things around. We knew we needed to shift from a linear guide to a more hyperlinked, ‘choose your own adventure’ system. The answer was to use the Rainbow Framework structure and build in C4D specific guidance and links. This is achieved in the final iteration which has pages discussing each principle, linking to the practical tasks; and having pages providing practical guidance on tasks with reflection points about how to approach those using the principles in the C4D Evaluation Framework.

The resulting Evaluating C4D Resource Hub offers ideal options based on the principles in the C4D Evaluation Framework, but recognising the need to be realistic and pragmatic, it also offers alternatives. As long as we understand the implications of our choices, and have good reasons for choosing them, we can be practicing better C4D research, monitoring and evaluation.

Final tweaks were made to the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub following a workshop in Malawi, which included UNICEF staff and their implementing and research partners. On April 16, 2018 the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub will finally be launched at the Social and Behaviour Change Summit in Indonesia, where over 1000 practitioners will be present.

The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub will continue to grow and evolve, and we’d welcome suggestions for additional resources and examples of best practices. If you are interested in finding out more, watch out for our eLearning course, and an open access book with chapters by the researchers and practitioners involved in the project.

Further information:

The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub is an outcome of the Evaluating Communication for Development: supporting adaptive and accountable development project (2014-2017, LP130100176) with funding from the Australian Research Council, UNICEF and the Eidos Institute. The project partners include: RMIT University, UNESCO Chair for Community Media/University of Hyderabad, UNICEF Communication for Development, Eidos Institute (2014-2016), and the project is continued by Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester. The lead investigators are: Professor Jo Tacchi, Professor Patricia Rogers, Professor Vinod Pavarala, Dr Linje Manyozo, Dr Rafael Obregon, and Bruce Muirhead; with Dr Jessica Noske-Turner as the postdoctoral researcher and Ho Anh Tung and Jharna Brahma as research assistants.

For more on the C4D Evaluation Framework see: Lennie & Tacchi (2013). Evaluating Communication for Development: A framework for social change. Earthscan/Routledge.

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