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Sixty more UNICEF staff to complete C4D training through Ohio University

Apr 16, 2013

Sixty UNICEF staff in Athens jump for a unique group shot during the communication and development training at Ohio University. / Photos by Camilo Perez

Sixty more UNICEF staff to complete C4D training through Ohio University

New grant awarded to Communication and Development Studies

By Kerry Tuttle

ATHENS, Ohio (April 16, 2013)—Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication and the Center for International Studies have been awarded a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) grant in the amount of $266,286 to continue to train UNICEF staff in communication for development (C4D).   Earlier this month, 60 UNICEF staff members began work on the first online module about values and principles.

The new contract follows a 2010 award of $950,000 for curriculum development and three yearly courses. Since 2011, the project team has trained more than 150 staff members from more than 60 countries as a part of a six-month blended-learning course on communication-based improvement projects.

Ohio University’s Communication and Development Studies program (CommDev), which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012, is one of only a handful of programs in the world to focus on the role of communication in development and social change.  The UNICEF project is one of several that has expanded its role outside the university to provide capacity building and training for development organizations.  

“Most of the UNICEF staff we’re training are not communication specialists,” said course co-director Dr. David Mould, professor emeritus in the School of Media Arts and Studies. “They’re trying to figure out how to reduce child mortality, improve water quality and sanitation, provide better schools, or advocate for laws that protect the right of children and families. They need to learn how to use the theories, research methods and tools of communication—from community meetings to mass media—to achieve these goals.” 

The course is accessed through the Internet and consists of three online modules, a two-week workshop and an online follow-up during which participants consult with the team  on projects they’re undertaking. Participants share experiences and perspectives as well as discuss issues about communication and development with one another on an online networking site. 

In the past, the two-week workshops were held in Athens, Ohio. This year the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg will host the workshop.  Course co-directors Mould and Dr. Karen Greiner, visiting assistant professor in the School of Media Arts and Studies, will be traveling to South Africa to help facilitate the workshop.

Most UNICEF staff members work in developing countries where child survival is being threatened, with some staff based in countries that are also facing conflict and humanitarian crises, such as South Sudan, Somalia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their work may take them into the field for days or weeks at a time. Erratic electricity supply and slow Internet access are not the only challenges they face in trying to keep up with the coursework. 

“When someone tells us ‘My country is on the brink of civil war,’ we’re going to accept a late assignment,” said Greiner. Participants learn about ethics, human rights based approaches to communication, theories of communication for social change, and research methods. When the workshop was held in Athens, participants used this background in group projects to create communication strategies for Appalachian Ohio NGOs. The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs was a key partner in identifying and liaising with organizations.

“Members of this program get to bridge theory and practice,” said Greiner. “Most people are doing excellent work in their field and you make great relationships. There is an additional benefit for faculty in learning from them [UNICEF staff]. We try to create opportunities for them to share.”

To learn more about the course and heal participants from the 2012 workshop talk about their experiences working in Appalachian Ohio, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XGsYtrlGeB0