2Component 2Is interactive radio an appropriate way to achieve our objectives? 1

Component Goals

By the time you have finished this component you will have:

  • Decided if interactive radio is an appropriate option to achieve your objectives.
  • Determined how to identify the right radio station partner(s).
  • Developed a draft implementation plan for your interactive radio activity.

Before you begin using interactive radio, it is important for you to assess if it is really one of the most appropriate means to address the challenges you are trying to overcome or objectives you are trying to achieve. It is also important to assess whether or not you currently have the capacity to work with interactive radio, and if not, what steps you can take to develop that capacity. This component will guide you through a process of assessing the appropriateness of a variety of ICT and traditional solutions to determine if interactive radio is indeed a good fit based on your own organizational, technical, and financial capacity.

When using technology in a development project, we often start with a technology solution in mind and then determine how to best use it to achieve our objectives. Although this may result in the successful application of technology, it can also be highly limiting because it locks us into viewing the challenge through whichever technology lens we have chosen. As the old saying goes, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." This is why it is important to first assess which option—whether interactive radio or another method—is the most appropriate to address the challenges you are trying to overcome or objectives you are trying to achieve.

To do this, we need to take a step back. Instead of accepting using radio as a foregone conclusion, this component will guide you through a process of assessing the appropriateness of a variety of ICT and traditional solutions to determine if interactive radio is, indeed, a good fit based on your own organizational, technical, and financial capacity. It is possible that another ICT solution, or a more traditional solution, may be even more appropriate in your situation. If that is the case, you will be thankful for determining that before you have invested the time and resources in going down the wrong path. Conversely, if you determine that interactive radio is appropriate for your situation, the process will provide a foundation from which to build your own work.

1 This component is a modified and augmented version of Component 2 in the Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners by Josh Woodard that was published in April 2012 by USAID's FACET project.

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How do we assess the appropriateness of different ICT options?

To start, you will want to write out your objective. It might be helpful to discuss this with your project staff first to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Depending on how broadly you have defined your objective, certain options may be more or less appropriate for different purposes or type of information. For example, information about agronomic practice may be best communicated through visual means (such as demo plots, video, face-to-face exchanges), whereas price and weather information may be better provided using radio, mobile phones, or bulletin boards. Similarly, a public awareness campaign may be best done through mass media, whereas training may be best accomplished through facilitated exchanges with farmers.

It is best, therefore, to make sure that your objective includes the type of information you plan to provide and the purpose of providing that information. Rather than saying, Improve agricultural knowledge of smallholder farmers in Ghana, which could include dozens of specific activities, you might want to consider something more specific, like: Increase productivity of smallholder farmers in the Northern region of Ghana through expanded access to information on best farming practices.

Once you have agreed upon your objective, it is important to lay out the context in which you are working. Although you have already most likely mapped out this context as part of your broader project design, it is helpful to do so again here, with a particular focus on the profile of your typical target beneficiary and the current ICT infrastructure in the area where you will be working. This information will be helpful when completing the ICT Option Assessment Tool found later in this component.

Determining the profile of your typical beneficiary will help you to assess which ICT solutions will likely be most appropriate to their needs and capacity. For example, if your typical beneficiary is illiterate, then using SMS text messages to disseminate information to them may have limited impact, even if there is high mobile phone penetration in the area where you are working. Below is a list of questions that you may want to consider asking about your beneficiaries.

  • What is the average age of your typical beneficiary?
  • What is their average level of education?
  • What is their average level of literacy?
  • What is their average socioeconomic status?
  • What are their primary crops or commodities?
  • Are there any cultural considerations or local beliefs that should be kept in mind?
  • How do people currently tend to access information?
  • How do people tend to share information?
  • What times of the day are people normally available?
  • Where do people tend to congregate?
  • Do most farmers participate in farmer or community groups?
  • What types of ICT do people generally have access to?
  • What is their level of knowledge of and comfort with each of these?
Note

The FAO has developed a good overview of rapid rural appraisals if you would like to learn more about how to conduct one. It is available online at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/W3241E/w3241e09.htm

Truly understanding your audience and their needs will be a key input into the design of your work with interactive radio. Ideally, you should consider conducting some sort of survey or rapid rural appraisal (RRA) in the communities that you are working in to help you complete this profile. You can also use parts of the ICT Infrastructure Questionnaire found in the component worksheet section to help gauge the access to and knowledge of ICTs among your beneficiaries. Not all of the questions on the questionnaire may apply to your situation, so you should select only those that are the most relevant or add your own. This questionnaire might also come in handy later when you are assessing the ICT capacity of potential partner radio stations.

If you do not have the resources or time to conduct an appraisal, you should at least bring together a diverse selection of staff and partners to help you create your profile. Think about each of the above questions and write down your answers as a group on flipchart paper. Remember, the aim is to create a profile of a typical beneficiary. This may not apply to all of the farmers you work with, but it should generally apply to most of them.

Once you have finished answering these questions, you can synthesize your answers into a more concise profile like the one that follows.

Age 35 – 55
Education level 6th grade
Literacy level Basic literacy. Limited time spent reading.
Socioeconomic status Subsistence, smallholder farmer
Primary crops Staple crops (maize, potatoes, onions, beans)
Local beliefs Significant esteem placed in elders
Information sharing Mostly word of mouth. Storytelling by elders.
Availability Mostly in the evenings after sundown
Main points of congregation Local market, village leader's house
Group participation Occasional participation in farmer association meetings
ICT profile Access to a basic mobile phone; may own radio or listen to radio with neighbors; limited access to electricity

Once you have finished creating your detailed objective and beneficiary profile, the next step is to use the ICT Option Assessment Tool to determine the most appropriate means of achieving your objective given your local context. This tool is basically a modified strengths–weaknesses–opportunities–threats (SWOT) analysis that will help you to consider the potential benefits, costs, and staff capacity for each option. When considering strengths and weaknesses, it is important to keep your beneficiary profile at the forefront when making your determinations. Often what may appear to be a strength when considered through our own lens of experience may have either limited impact or be a weakness given the local context. For staff capacity, make sure to consider both local and home office capacity. This should include both technical capacity and time available. You might find it helpful to divide technical capacity into four classifications, as follows:

None No current capacity
Limited/basic capacity Can use basic features
Intermediate capacity Able to use most features, but limited ability to train others
Advanced capacity Able to create/manage content and train others

Identifying your local and home office capacity in advance will help to determine whether it is possible for you to proceed with using a given ICT option even if all other signs point to yes. The fact that your staff may have only limited capacity does not, in and of itself, mean that you should not proceed. You may be able to hire external support or pay for technical training for your staff to bring them to a level where they are able to implement your proposed activity. In addition, the remaining components of this toolkit have been designed so that they can be used by both local and home office staff to develop their own capacity specific to using interactive radio and training others. Like any technical skill, it will require practice and experimentation first, but it is not as daunting a process as it may seem.

You can use these capacity considerations, along with equipment, material, and other potential costs, to help you determine whether the likely total costs of a given option fit within your available budget.

Based on your responses to these criteria, you should be able to determine which option is most appropriate. You may find that more than one option appears appropriate for achieving your objective. If this is the case, you may want to consider piloting activities using each appropriate option to determine which one actually achieves the greatest impact. Alternatively, complementary strategies can be used to further enhance outcomes. For instance, if you determined that both video and radio were appropriate options, it may be that using both mediums to reinforce messaging is the most effective option of all—assuming that you have the capacity and budget to do so. Regardless of which option you choose, you should build in a way to evaluate your methods to refine them over time.

A completed, sample ICT Option Assessment Tool has been included below to give you an idea of what it may look like. A blank copy has also been included at the end of this component. Before you write anything on the template, you may find it helpful to brainstorm ideas with your project staff so that you have more space. After you have made your final determination, consider sharing it with colleagues or other stakeholders who were not involved in the process to ensure that it makes sense to them. Ask them to evaluate your assessment by double checking assumptions you have made and providing their own recommendations for improvements. Use their input to strengthen your assessment.

OBJECTIVE: Increase productivity of smallholder farmers in the Northern region of Ghana through expanded access to information on best farming practices.
ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

ICT OPTION

Basic cell phone (voice + text) Radio /Podcasts Smart phones/ tablets Video Web Other: Billboards
Strengths of each option Most farmers have access High penetration, used by most farmers Portable, large screen Most farmers enjoy videos when they have access Currently none in this case, as there is virtually zero internet access Relatively easy to produce and distribute
Weaknesses of each option Limited literacy levels Depends on partnership with local radio stations Zero hardware penetration, concerns about network capacity Dissemination channels do not really exist Internet access extremely limited This has been tried before with limited impact
Current staff capacity Intermediate Limited Limited None Intermediate Advanced
Potential costs Would need to purchase or develop MIS program May need to pay for air time and some equipment for interactivity Would need to purchase devices and provide training on use Would need to invest in staff training and equipment Would need to purchase computers and satellite internet Cost of billboard rental and materials
Is this an appropriate option? Why? Yes – primarily in support of other options given limited literacy Yes – farmers are already listening to radio in large numbers No – lack of staff capacity and penetration Maybe –could help broaden outreach beyond traditional methods No – currently no internet access No – have already tried this option with limited results

Adapted from a table originally developed by Mark Bell and Judith Payne for the USAID-funded MEAS project (2011), which can be found online at http://measict.weebly.com/extension-and-ict-options.html.

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How should we identify appropriate radio partners?

After you have determined which options seem to be most appropriate, you will need to collect some additional information before coming to a final conclusion. If radio made it to the top of the list, you will now need to consider what your broadcast options are. On the face of things, radio might be the best way to reach your audience based on local availability, learning objectives, and cost. Local broadcast restrictions or lack of interest from radio stations, however, could make radio less appropriate than it may seem. Therefore, you should also survey potential radio station partners in advance to determine if the possibility exists to work with them to achieve your objectives.

At a minimum, you will want to ask the following questions of each of the stations you are interested in working with:

  • What is your broadcast range?
  • How many hours per day are you on the air?
  • How many estimated listeners do you have? What is their demographic profile?
  • What radio formats do you use (news, music, skits, etc.)? In what percentages?
  • What percentage of your programming is agriculture focused?
  • What is the average length of your agricultural programs you air?
  • Where do your programs come from (produced in-house, from parent station, etc.)?
  • Would we need to pay for airtime to broadcast our program?

You can use the Radio Station Survey Worksheet to help you collect this information from each of the radio stations you are targeting. Ideally, you should be working with radio stations that have an audience that closely resembles your target audience and is interested in broadcasting the type of programming you plan to create. Although not every station will have a complete profile of their audience, they should at least have a general sense of who their primary listener is. If not, you may need to visit the communities within its broadcast range to find out who tends to listen to their station.

It is also extremely important to examine the relationship between each station and your target audience. Since your ultimate objective is likely to include some level of behavior change, you will want to work with radio stations that are known and trusted by listeners. Choosing the wrong partners—such as a radio station with limited credibility—can severely affect the potential impact of your messaging, even if the information is accurate. You will want to ask farmers in your target audience about how they view each station you are thinking of working with. This can be as simple as asking them which radio stations and announcers they view as trusted sources of information.

Your completed survey might look something like this:

Overview: Station name: Community Radio Chipata
Address: Great East Road, close to the police station
Phone number: 062 458 9201
Contact person: Damian Choolwe
Broadcast range: Chipata, Chikomene, Mshawa, and Kalume
Audience Profile
Gender ratio: Probably 60% men, 40% women
Average age: Hard to say, but mostly over 40
Profession: Predominantly farmers, some traders
Socioeconomic Status: Mostly smallholder farmers
Programming Profile
Broadcast hours: 6am until 8pm
Radio formats used: News, music, call-in and talk shows, radio dramas
Most popular program: Sunday evening radio drama and Thursday morning Ask an Expert
Agricultural programs:
(as a % of all programs)
While not explicitly agricultural, most of their call-in and talk shows cover agricultural topics and some of their radio dramas are about farmers. Hard to provide an exact percentage of programming.
Average length of agricultural programs: Most call-in shows are 1 hour long. Their radio dramas vary between 15 and 30 minutes.
Source of programs: Radio dramas are predominantly shared by larger national broadcasters.
Cost of airtime: Free if it fits within their programming interests, otherwise we would need to negotiate a fee.
 
Reported by:
_________________ _________________
Name Date

The process of finding partners is not just one-way though. When you are meeting with local radio stations, explain what your interests are, why you would like to work with them, and what support you would be able to offer them, whether that be financial or through technical assistance. Some may already have agricultural programs or interest in adding an agricultural program, while others may not yet see the value in such programming. It is up to you to sell them on why your plan for interactive radio fits within their own business model. Each station will have its own reasons for why they may or may not want to work with you. In the end though, if they see value in what you are proposing they are likely to consider working with you.

2-Way Relationship

In the event that the availability of local partners does not meet your needs, you will need to decide whether another option is more appropriate given this reality or if you are willing to work with less than ideal partners.

Team

What do we mean by team?

Throughout this toolkit you will notice the use of the term 'team' often. We use 'team' to represent all members of your interactive radio activity team, including staff from local radio stations, local NGOs, government extension offices, and your project staff.

Once you have decided on radio station partners, you need to develop a partnership agreement with each of them to formalize your team. The nature of this agreement will depend upon the relationship that you plan to have with each station. At a minimum, it should include the following information:

  • Contact information for representatives from all parties
  • The roles and responsibilities of all parties
  • Additional expectations about the nature of the partnership

Under roles and responsibilities, you should be clear about who is responsible for what and on what timeline. You may also consider including targets for each item, such as the number of listener interactions per month or frequency of radio program broadcasts. In addition, if you plan to offer stations with technical support or capacity development, make sure to clearly outline what that will entail. Work with each radio station in advance to identify where the gaps in their capacity are so that you can determine what support they need. It might not be possible for your project to address all of their needs, but you can play a significant role in helping them improve their capacity.

If you are working with a local NGO partner or government extension agents as well, you should also consider including them in the same agreement so that all parties have a common understanding of what work will be done.

The following is an example of what an agreement might look like. All of the parties in this example are fictitious.

Partnership Agreement
Background
Radio Furaha is a community radio station located in Lodwar, Kenya. It broadcasts daily from 6am until 10pm, and has a mix of radio programming. Turkana Livestock Development is a locally based NGO working with over 7,000 livestock herders throughout Turkana district to improve livestock breeding and rearing practices. Livestock Partners International is an international development organization based in Washington, DC. It is currently working on the five year Livestock Improvement project in Kenya.
Responsibilities
Radio Furaha
  • Assign one radio producer to develop radio content with support from Turkana Livestock Development
  • Develop at least four programs monthly of a minimum of five minutes each
  • Broadcast a call-in radio program weekly focused on livestock issues
  • Track interactions with listeners, including name, content of question/comment, and contact information
Turkana Livestock Development
  • Provide technical content to Radio Furaha for at least four programs monthly
  • Participate in weekly call-in radio program as a content expert
  • Provide follow up technical support to herders who have called-in, as necessary
Livestock Partners International
  • Provide capacity development training to Radio Furaha and Turkana Livestock Development on creating engaging programs
  • Provide capacity development training to Radio Furaha on managing an interactive radio program
  • Ongoing technical support as requested by either party
Expectations
All parties agree to adhere to the responsibilities as outlined above. Should any changes be required, the party that desires the change will inform the other parties immediately. All parties agree to meet once a quarter to discuss progress and challenges.
Agreed to by:
Name of partner: Radio Furaha
Address: 415 Lodwar-Lokichogio Rd, Lodwar, Kenya
Phone number: 054-40000
Contact person: James Muriuki
Job title: Station manager
Name of partner: Livestock Partners International
Address: Valley Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Phone number: 020-3512800
Contact person: George Odumbe
Job title: Technical lead
Name of partner: Turkana Livestock Development
Address: 85 Lodwar-Lokichogio Rd, Lodwar, Kenya
Phone number: 054-50100
Contact person: Johari Ekuwam
Job title: Activity director

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How can we plan to implement our activity?

Before implementing your activity, you may find it helpful to create a more detailed plan for carrying out your activity. One way to do this is by using the Implementation Plan Framework included in the worksheet section at the end of this component. It will contain much of the same information you have already compiled, but it is designed to help you outline a roadmap for your activity that can be used as a common point of reference for all of your staff and partners. Unlike some planning tools that you may be accustomed to using, this one is likely different in that it starts with the desired consequences, or the "Why?"

Using this framework you will develop an implementation plan for your interactive radio activity that focuses on outcomes, context, and beliefs, in addition to the mechanics of what, who, and how. It also builds in consideration for measuring impact directly from the start of your activity.

Before you read the rest of this toolkit, you should draft an initial implementation plan together with your project staff as a starting point. The purpose of this plan is to outline how your proposed activity will be carried out, and how it fits within your broader project objectives. If you have already identified local partners, you may want to invite them to participate in the planning process so that they are clear about what you are trying to achieve and how they will contribute to helping you achieve your overall objectives.

You will want to allot at least two hours for this activity to provide enough time for brainstorming and discussion. Make sure to use the framework from left to right. This will help to ensure that all of your decisions related to the mechanics and measurement of your activity are derived from your desired outcomes. As with the other exercises above, you are encouraged to use flipchart paper during this process so that you have enough space to write out everyone's ideas.

As you work your way through the rest of the toolkit, you are encouraged to improve and expand upon your initial draft based upon what you learn along the way. By the time you have finished using the toolkit, you should have a final implementation plan that you can use to guide your interactive radio activity.

The table below shows what a sample of a completed plan might look like. This sample is for illustrative purposes and is therefore not too detailed. Your final plan will likely be more thorough than the sample. Remember, though, that this is not meant to be a step-by-step process for how you will implement your activity, but rather an overarching framework for you and your project staff to use. Take some time to review the sample and try developing your own draft now before continuing to the next component.

DECISION MAKING & PLANNING FRAMEWORK

1. WHY?

Desired Consequences: immediate, mid-term
and long-term outcomes & results

What changes do we want to achieve by the time the project is over?

Immediate changes/results?
Farmers will have improved knowledge of best practices

Mid-term changes/results?
Farmers have experimented with adopting improved practices

Long-term changes/results?
Farmers experience increases in income as a result of higher yields and better quality product

2. CONTEXT?

Situation & Challenges;
Barriers to Overcome; • Assets & Opportunities

Characteristics of the situation in which we work? Barriers to overcome?
Many of the local radio stations are not accustomed to working with development organizations. A couple of them are skeptical of our intentions. Our staff also have limited experience working with radio as a communication medium.

Characteristics of the target audience that we seek to help?
They are generally open to learning about improved farming practices, but some are skeptical given misinformation they have been provided in the past.

ICT assets already present in the community?
Most of our target audience listens to the radio at least weekly. Although not everyone owns their own radio, they have access through neighbors and farmer associations.

Opportunities that exist within the environment and system that we can leverage?
Community radio stations already exist in the majority of communities that we are targeting. Assuming that most of them agree to work with us, it would be a great point of leverage.

3. BELIEFS?

Core Principles Governing our Decisions & Actions

What development principles and non-negotiable values do we have to consider in how we implement our approach?
It is important for us to include the input of our partners and beneficiaries in designing any programming. We also believe in empowering our local partners to take on responsibility for direct project implementation over time.

4. WHAT?

Technical Approach

Given our responses to sections 1-3, what approach will we take to best achieve our desired consequences?
We plan to work with radio stations in two ways. First, we will help them to create scripts and radio programs for them to use on specific agricultural subjects. Second, we will help them to integrate interactivity into their programming so that listeners have an opportunity to engage with them and learn.

5. HOW?

Critical Structural Elements, Required equipment

How will it be implemented?
Training and technical support
Regional technical leads and local partner NGO staff counterparts will provide technical content training to radio stations to help them develop agricultural programming. One of our technical staff members also has experience in some of the interactive options, so he can help us to support training radio stations. We may require some additional outside training for more advanced elements.

Dissemination
We will primarily work with local radio stations for dissemination, although we will also explore creating a lending library of audio programs that can be stored on MP3 players at some of our local partner offices in the field.

Required equipment
Since we plan to have our field staff create some of the programming, or at least collect interviews for inclusion in radio programs, we will need digital voice recorders. We may also need to help our partner radio stations install and configure IVR systems and phone recording devices.

6. WHO?

Essential Actors

Who will be responsible for implementing this?
Our communications team will be responsible for coordinating with local radio stations on programming, with our contracts associate responsible for managing any prerequisite agreements that we need to enter into with each station. Our technical team will work with our communications team to support stations to develop scripts and programs, with input from field staff and local partners. Justice, our technical officer with experience in using ICT tools, will be responsible for providing technical support to radio stations on interactivity and will provide them with feedback on ways that they can improve their interaction with listeners.

7. ARE WE THERE YET?

Indicators and Measures of Success, Assessment Methods

Our primary output indicators will be the number of scripts and programs produced and aired by local radio station partners. For outcome, we will be primarily measuring change in knowledge and practice. Within three years we also expect to see an improvement in income of farmers who listened to our programs frequently as compared to those who did not.

We will conduct baseline knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) surveys of farmers that we are targeting through our broader work. We will repeat these surveys annually to compare any changes. Since not all of the farmers we are working with live in range of radio stations we are working with, they presumably will not have listened to our programs. All other services being equal, we will use these farmers as a control group. We will also survey farmers within broadcast range as to their listening habits to determine if there is any correlation between habits and outcomes.

Developing and implementing an interactive radio activity is going to take a lot of work. Before you get started with any work, it is important that you envision what you want to achieve and determine the best way to get there. Creating an implementation plan is one tool for accomplishing this, but it will only be as good as what you put into it. You may find it helpful to create a draft implementation plan before exploring local partnerships. If that is the case and if no one on your project staff has any prior experience working with radio or developing effective programming, you will likely want to consider consulting with someone who does have that experience to provide you with input and feedback on your plan. Although this toolkit will hopefully provide you with enough information to understand all of the necessary elements for implementing an interactive radio activity, it cannot replace hands-on experience.

The scope of your plans will obviously also determine how much support you may need to actualize them. If you only plan to help radio stations leverage ICT tools to increase their interactivity, it will require much less input and resources than developing a widespread participatory radio campaign from scratch.

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Success

Critical Success Factors

  • Select the most appropriate ICT option.
  • Know your target audience.
  • Find radio station partners that are suited to help you achieve your objectives.
  • Develop a well-thought-out plan.

Worksheets

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