"While there is a growing literature of scholarly research in the community radio sector and an even more impressive volume of evaluation reports done for external funding agencies, there have been few substantial and credible efforts at evolving frameworks and standards that the community radio stations themselves could use to review their performance."
This toolkit aims to provide a participatory evaluation framework designed to allow community radio (CR) stations to set their own benchmarks or goals against which they can review their performance periodically. It has been drafted keeping in view: (a) the national CR radio policy guidelines (in India); and (b) certain principles of community media globally, such as community participation and ownership, access and inclusion of marginalised groups, gender equity, community-generated content, emphasis on local cultures and identities, and transparency and accountability in practice. The toolkit was developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair on Community Media, University of Hyderabad with support provided by the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA).
For CRs asking themselves questions - What are we trying to achieve through our radio station? How will we know that a change is an improvement? What changes can we make that will result in improvement of our CR service? - the resource provides indicators of performance along 9 broad parameters:
- Content Generation and Programming
- Policies and Guidelines
- Technology: Access and Management
- On-Air Standards of Broadcasting
- Feedback and Grievances
- Content Sharing and Networking
- Revenue Generation and Financial Accountability
Themes such as participation, inclusion, gender, and capacity-building cut across all the 9 parameters.
This excerpt from the first section is illustrative: "When a station manages to involve members of the community in the various phases of programme production, they develop a stronger sense of identification with the station. Listening to one's voices over the radio can be an important step towards a sense of 'community ownership'. This section also attempts to assess to what extent the CR station includes historically excluded voices, such as women, dalits, tribals, etc."
This toolkit focuses on principles, practices, and processes. Impact of the CR station on the community is outside the purview of this toolkit. This is primarily to help stations reflect on to what extent their everyday practices and policies are in tune with the larger philosophy and best practices of CR. In that light:
- The toolkit comes with a detailed user guide, which explains in detail the rationale for various parameters and describes the indicators. It is suggested that the CR station would benefit from reviewing this guide before embarking on the self-administration exercise. This may help in compiling the data necessary to respond appropriately to some of the questions.
- It is modular in design and can be self-administered in parts. If the station desires to review its own performance along all the parameters all at once, it may be advisable to set aside adequate time to allow all key stakeholders to participate and express themselves.
- It is suggested that the exercise be taken up collectively by: a) station manager and staff; b) CR Management Committee (CRMC) members; and c) at least one representative of the parent organisation, if not already on the CRMC.
- At the end of every section of the toolkit, there is space provided for the CR station to take notes and set goal posts for the future.
This process of developing the toolkit involved intense discussions over 2 different workshops with representatives of CR stations from across the country, as well as with community radio experts engaged in advocacy, research, and capacity-building. The process was conceptualised within Edward Brantmeier's co-learning paradigm (see "Empowerment Pedagogy: Co-Learning and Teaching" [PDF]) incorporating key principles such as: peer learning, reciprocal value of knowledge-sharers, mutual trust, and collective and individual meaning-making. The medium- to long-term goal is to facilitate the forging of a community of practice through the development of this toolkit.
December 2013 update:
- The toolkit has also been validated by all the operational community radio stations (16) in Bangladesh and this version, adapted for Bangladesh, has also been field-tested by two CR stations. A Bengali version of the toolkit is under preparation for use by the Bangladesh CR community and will soon be available in the public domain.
- The toolkit is being field-tested in a select few CR stations in India, after which an updated version, along with the toolkit developers' recommended methodology for a peer review process, will be made public.
Emails from Dr. Kanchan K. Malik to The Communication Initiative on August 17 2013 and August 19 2013; and emails from Vinod Pavarala to The Communication Initiative on December 19 2013 and December 20 2013. Image credit: UNESCO