In 1997, the Rockefeller Foundation’s then communication director and later vice president, Denise Gray-Felder, began an exploration to, in part, answer nagging questions: why is the communication work of many Foundation grantees scatter-shot, unsustainable and heavily message driven?
Following a series of discussions with diverse groups of communicators over a 3-year period, the Foundation’s communication staff introduced the concept of communication for social change to the foundation and donor communities.
They then pulled together a network of more than 200 committed CFSC practitioners. This network, along with Foundation staff, has successfully influenced the communication agendas of major aid agencies, and applied CFSC processes around the globe. With Rockefeller Foundation funding leadership, major NGOs in North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa are successfully applying CFSC processes to make their work more effective. Among those key institutions that have recommitted major areas of work to CFSC are the Panos Institute, USAID, PAHO, Communication Initiative (Latin America and global), Soul City, South Africa; The Exchange, Afri-Afya (Nairobi), URDT (Uganda Community Radio), FAO, and the CADEC, ZAPSO and Umzingwane AIDS Network in Zimbabwe.
The First Communication for Social Change (CFSC) academic program
While hundreds of universities in the world offer programmes to study journalism, particularly focusing on print, television, radio, advertising and public relations, only a handful of universities in the world specialize in communication for development a social change. These are part of the University Network facilitated by the Communication for Social Change Consortium. From the Philippines to Colombia, these academic programmes offer potential students a different perspective of communication studies, emphasizing participation and dialogue in development and social change.
The first seminal meeting of the University Network took place in The Philippines, hosted by the College of Development Communication of the University of The Philippines at Los Baños, outside Manila. The College of Development Communication has been a pioneer worldwide in proposing an approach to communication that takes communities into consideration, and conceives development as a process of participation and dialogue among all stakeholders. After our first meeting of constitution, smaller meetings have taken place between universities that are part of the network, as well as visits from Consortium staff to the academic institutions.