Global Network Forum

Global Networks Forum on Communication for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment

What roles does communication play for development and social change in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) era? Given the revolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and new and collaborative media, what are opportunities and risks in enabling the voice of those most affected by development issues? How do stakeholders, especially media and journalism institutions, operate in this new reality of mediated communication for development and social change? How can we frame participation in response to emerging challenges related to equity and social norms, in addition to the development agenda setting process? These are fundamental questions to answer to leverage the potential of communication and sustain vibrant communities across different regions. Recent years have witnessed rapid changes in local, national, regional, and global development priorities in response to contemporary and emerging technological, social, political, and economical drivers. Researchers, and practitioners including governments, communities, and civil society organizations, are being challenged to reconsider their roles, revisit innovative means of communicating the formal mandates of the SDGs, and craft more compelling narratives and key messages that can move people and institutions to action and amplify citizens’ voices. Since the early 2000s, the University of Guelph (through the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development) has been an active partner in many regional and global networks and initiatives in communication for development and social change. The Connection Grant initiative emanates from ongoing discussions within the member network for mobilizing existing yet fragmented knowledge on the emerging and innovative communication practices and services, with the aim of addressing the complex sustainability challenges in agriculture, rural development, and environment.

The initiative focuses on strengthening existing and building new networks across practitioners, non-profits, and researchers working in the communication for development and social change field. This initiative will generate knowledge sharing of the successful practices, create an invaluable network, and identify seminal questions and lessons learned in the context of achieving SDGs under five thematic areas. These areas include the following: (i) the founding networks and academic/practice convergence in communication for development and social change; (ii) discussion of the contemporary issues and approaches of the research “edge”; (iii) the changing role of media and journalism institutions in communication for development, social change, and deliberative democracy; (iv) reframing participatory processes in the digital age; and (v) social and collaborative media for agricultural and rural development.

Global Network Forum Webinars

GNF & IAMCR Webinar Part 1

Speaker: Fred Campbell, Ryakuga

Discussant: Dr. Sarah Cardey, University of Reading

Md. Firoze Alam, University of Guelph


Part C: CCA Roundtable Session

Speakers :
Dr. Katherin Reilly, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, Professor, University of Guelph
Dr. Stella Tirol, University of Philippines, Los Banos.

Alatheia Araneta, University of Philippines, Los Banos
Dr. Ricardo Ramirez, Adjunct Faculty, University of Guelph

Part B: Online tools and methods used for participation and community engagement processes

Speakers :
Dr. Gordon Gow, Professor, University of Alberta
Dr. Katherin Reilly, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Habib Ali, Assistant Professor, University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh
Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, Professor, University of Guelph
Md. Firoze Alam, Ph.D. Student, University of Guelph
Dr. Stella Tirol, University of Philippines, Los Banos.

Part A: Participation Basics: What are Non-negotiables?

This is part one of the webinar series, “Rethinking Participation in the Digital Age of Communication for Development and Social Change”
This webinar explored the basic concepts and principles of participation and then identify some of the “non-negotiable” components of participatory processes.
Speaker and Facilitator: Dr. Ricardo Ramírez, International Development Consultant, and Adjunct Professor, University of Guelph

Date: November, 10, 2020

Call for Proposals

We are requesting contributions to the upcoming edited volume, “Digital Communication for Agricultural and Rural Development: Participatory Practices in a Post-Covid Age” to be published by the Taylors and Francis. The volume will be co-edited by Dr. Ataharul Chowdhury, University of Guelph, Dr. Gordon Gow, University of Alberta and Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, University of Guelph. We are seeking contributions from established and emerging scholars and practitioners of communication for development and social change.


Participation and participatory research and development processes are fundamental to communication for development (comdev or C4D) and communication for social change (CfSC) scholarship. Over the past five decades there has been a variety of theoretical approaches, practice-based studies and knowledge bases (e.g. Servaes, 2018; Waisbord, 2018; Melkote & Steeves, 2015; Manyozo, 2012a; Thomas, 2014; Wilkins et al., 2014; Gumucio Dagron & Tufte, 2006; Gumucio Dagron, 2001) that highlight participation as an essential component of inclusive development processes. Over the last decade, we have witnessed many good practices, principles and experience, especially using various digital tools, such as video, radio, internet, collaborative and social media (see Servaes, 2018 and Waisbord, 2018) to harness the benefit of mediated participation and raise the voice of marginalized groups and enable their choices in the development projects.

The COVID 19 pandemic has revealed that digital technology and mediated participation are important and essential in managing  C4D projects. However, it has also underscored the various challenges associated with digital participatory practices. For example, the rapid shift to exclusively online communications has presented difficulties for undertaking community engagement activities, leading to further exclusion of marginalized groups, including households and communities with limited access to digital technology.  As remote communication increasingly displaced face to face contact during the COVID 19 pandemic, researchers and practitioners have been forced to reconsider the very concept of participation. How has  community engagement within C4D and CfSC initiatives transformed, and why does it matter?

This book aims to collect and present insights from scholars and practitioners around the world on the impact of COVID on participatory communication and rural development practices. It will consider how the concept of participation has been transformed by the realities of the pandemic, reflecting on essential principles and practical considerations. It will also look at techniques and approaches adopted and adapted in response to the constraints imposed by lockdowns and the necessity of shifting C4D and CfSC initiatives to exclusively remote interaction. The goal in gathering these insights is to consider what these lessons entail for the future of participatory processes.

Chapters for this Edited Volume will be between 5000-7000 words and will be organized into the following broad areas

Part1: Reflecting on the Participatory Paradigm in Rural Communication Studies

In this part, we will include contributions that focus on historical and theoretical debate of participation rooted in the C4D and CfSC paradigms. The section will also cover contributions that focus on conceptualizing participation in a digital setting, particularly in rural areas.

Part 2: Critical Perspectives on Digital Participation

This section will include contributions that examine critical perspectives on digital participation in agriculture and rural development as we enter a post-COVID era. The chapters will focus on contemporary and emerging challenges, for example social and ethical issues related to deploying online platforms, partnership and civic participation for internet infrastructure, online polarization and marginalization due to emerging threats of misinformation.

Part 3: Practices, Experiences, Cases and Tools

This part will include chapters that focus on experiences, cases and tools related to digital participation. Chapters will cover a range of experiences related to the continuity of C4D and CfSC activities during COVID 19 disruptions. The chapter authors include practitionerreflections on lessons learned as well as what we might expect for enduring changes to participatory practices as the  pandemic becomes an endemic, and beyond.

The following is a list of potential topic areas:

  • Theoretical and Conceptual Discussions on Participatory research and development in agri-food, natural resource management and environmental communication, with a focus on implications for digitally medicated/remote communication.
  • Critical perspectives/experiences/tools/methods related to use of digital media (e.g. social and collaborative media, internet tools and platforms etc.) and traditional media (e.g. radio, video)  for knowledge mobilization, agricultural extension and advisory services in areas of agri-food, nutritional and environmental changes and development.
  • Critical perspectives/experiences/tools/methods related to use of digital media (e.g. social media, internet etc.) and traditional media (e.g. radio, video)  for co-creation, co-design and public engagement in areas of agri-food, nutritional and environmental changes and development.
  • Critical perspectives/experiences/tools related to citizen science, crowdsourcing, and open data initiatives in in areas of agri-food, nutritional and environmental changes and development.
  • Digitally mediated/Remote communication practices that address equity & inclusion and anti racism, Indigenous issues, labour, etc. in areas of agri-food, nutritional and environmental changes and development.
  • Suggest an idea!

Submission Instructions:

Please send a 250 word abstract proposal by December 24th, 2021 to Ataharul Chowdhury

In the subject line of your email, include:

  • Digital Communication for Agricultural and Rural Development!

In the body of your email include:

  • Chapter title
  • Section you are submitting to

Part 1: Reflecting on the Participatory Paradigm in C4D

Part 2: Critical Perspectives on Digital Participation; or

Part 3: Practices, Experiences, Cases and Tools.

Name of author(s), title(s), institution(s), & email addresses.

•             We will send out confirmations by January 30, 2022

•             First draft of the chapter is expected by June 19, 2022.