The empowerment of local development NPOs as agents for social change through participatory communication /|cL. dos Santos.
Dos Santos, Lize
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This study explores how participatory communication can be used as an empowering process for small local Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) in becoming agents of social change. The theoretical basis for the study is participatory communication against a framework of empowerment. The researcher’s guiding argument is that development and social change cannot take place without participatory communication, dialogue and empowerment leading to self-reliance, whilst taking cultural differences into account. The assumption is that empowering or enabling local NPOs by giving them agency to act, the opportunity to become self-reliant, and to have input in planning, should result in social change to the benefit of themselves and the community. The research design in the study adopted a qualitative, multi-case study which included five local development Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), as well as three representatives of the Private Sector and three representatives of the Public Sector, to gain a multi-perspective view on their use of participatory communication and how it relates to empowerment. The research methods of this study comprised a literature review, 11 semi-structured interviews and five focus group discussions with above-mentioned participants. The core concepts of the participatory approach identified as relevant to this study are dialogue, participation, cultural diversity, and empowerment leading to self-reliance. The results from each of the three sectors were discussed and compared in accordance with guiding arguments that were derived from the literature and formulated for each of these core concepts. It seems unlikely that organisations can be empowered to influence or change the larger environment and community without first empowering the individual members in the organisation itself, as they would be less likely to participate or be skilled in decision-making and problem-solving behaviours. The empirical results show that only one of the five case study NPOs is empowered, and that neither the Private nor Public Sector are currently empowering agents to the NPOs. Trust, respect and a shared meaning or context were identified as key determining factors in the participatory communication approach and the empowerment process. These factors determined whether or not dialogue and participation occurred between the parties while cultural diversity influenced the quality of social interaction, behaviour, dialogue and their willingness to participate. The results indicated that the NPOs are at the moment survivalist and merely capable of being relievers of social need instead of agents of social change. NPOs cannot be change agents in the community if they themselves are not empowered and given the opportunity or skills to participate in social and political arenas. The study found that the NPOs only have the opportunity to empower themselves, since they do not have the opportunity at empowered participation with the Private or Public Sector, and have difficulty in engaging dialogue and collective decision-making on equal terms with these sectors. The responsibility for empowerment lies jointly with the NPOs, Private and Public Sectors. Therefore, it is recommended that all three sectors invest in long-term relationships with each other, which include high-level participation and horizontal two-way dialogue built on trust and respect, with a collective focus on the mutually identified goal of education and training of NPOs. Recommendations for training and education based on mentorship, participation and the consideration of culture and indigenous knowledge in the following fields were also made: financial management, fundraising and communication skills training relating to organisational culture, public relations, marketing, and stakeholder relationships
- Humanities