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What does it mean to collaborate? Insights from our online discussion

From July 3 to July 28, YenKasa Africa is bringing together media organizations and stakeholder groups such as farmers’ organizations, extension workers, researchers, women’s and youth organizations, and other civil society organizations to discuss how collaboration can support effective rural communication services. The discussion is facilitated by Farm Radio International and mainly takes place via WhatsApp.

The discussion brings together more than 700 individuals.

In week 1, participants introduced themselves and offered what they believe “collaboration” means. It was a common understanding that collaboration is about different stakeholders working together to achieve a common goal. Radio is a mass communication media and we have stakeholders who wish to bring their message to the attention of the masses. One example is World Blood Donor Day. Radio has the responsibility of informing people what blood donation means and how they can save lives by donating blood. Collaborating with stakeholders in the health sector who will serve as resource persons makes the broadcaster’s job easier.

Collaboration for effective rural communication includes the collective efforts and partnerships among various stakeholders to improve communication systems and infrastructure in rural areas. It can involve collaboration between government bodies, non-profit organizations, private sector entities, and local communities to address the challenges and gaps in rural communication and promote meaningful engagement. By fostering these collaborations, effective rural communication can be achieved, thereby enabling rural communities to access vital information, participate in socio-economic activities, and connect with the wider world.

Collaboration can also, simply, involve sharing experiences and expertise that will lead to effective, people-oriented programs.

In week 2, participants shared what types of collaborations they are involved in, as well as the benefits and challenges. Radio broadcasters noted that they work with a wide range of organizations, including government ministries such as ministries of health, agriculture, education, community development, and social welfare as well as other institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, media houses, print and TV journalists, research institutions, their own listeners, and more. They also work with different station departments, while other team members as producers collaborate with presenters, announcers, studio engineers, and others.

Stakeholders noted that they often co-fund and co-design programming to promote a localization agenda or to talk about new farming practices, etc.

For broadcasters, the benefits of collaboration include:

– receiving the information given by institutions speaks to the needs of communities;

– education from these sectors helps listeners, and also educates the entire public on important matters;

– resource mobilization when these institutions bring programs to the radio they actually pay;

– producing productive programs for the radio to attract business;

– encouraging teamwork within the station and with stakeholders;

– transparency on activities done within stations;

– bringing a wider diversity of radio programs;

– learning new skills, including new program types and radio production skills;

– collaborating with journalists from different locations reduces travel costs;

– time-saving, if tasks are shared;

– better problem-solving;

– access to stakeholders for interviews;

– programs are better aligned with government or national approved standards, thereby reducing misinformation;

– improved credibility and audience trust;

– improved peace-building dialogues and conflict resolution in crisis-affected areas;

– and more

For stakeholders, the benefits of collaboration include:

– linkages to farmers;

– integration for health education, including sensitization and creating awareness through radio talk-shows;

– ability to reach out to a larger target audience of people/farmers at one time;

– timely and simple delivery of information within the shortest possible time;

– economically effective and sustainable;

– amplification of advocacy efforts and increased impact.

Discussion participants also noted the challenges of collaborating:

– With teamwork, there may be people with different ideologies and perceptions.

– Broadcasting policies, rules, and regulations fail the collaboration, depending on the type of station involved, e.g., religious stations vs. entertainment stations

– Sometimes it’s difficult to get resource personnel from public institutions; disappointments because of work schedules; when invited, departments are not able to make it.

– Weather, especially rainfall, sometimes has an effect on people listening to the radio program.

– Slow teammates or those who never want to compromise and learn from others.

– Lack of continuous funding of program production and need to reach out to more farmer communities.

– Commitment and discipline becomes weak for some collaborators and that affects effectiveness and sustainability.

– Most of the NGOs have changed the community mindset. They always give transport refunds to their workshop/meeting participants, so if you don’t have funds you can’t gather people.

– Poor communication skills for some of the stakeholders can lead to distorted information.

– Some resource persons expect monetary gain from the radio station for sharing their knowledge.

– There is a challenge of continuous support and sustainability of such partnerships.

– The economy of media in many African countries is unstable, and the budget is small.

– Language sometimes may be a barrier if the resource person is not a local.

– For stakeholders, there are many radio stations and they end up failing to select which station to collaborate with.

– Timelines stakeholders and authorities set for the collaboration are usually short-term.

As one of the resource people for the discussion said, “Media work is teamwork. It is said that no man is an island. We all need one another to achieve great things. However, collaboration isn’t always easy to achieve …”

The discussion continues until July 28.