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Development Communication – MCM 431 VU
Social mobilization is a term used by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to describe a comprehensive planning approach that emphasizes political coalition building and community action (UNICEF 1993, Wallack 1989). It is the process of bringing together all feasible and practical inter-sectoral social allies to raise people's awareness of and demand for a particular development program, to assist in the delivery of resources and services and to strengthen community participation for sustainability and self-reliance. A successful mobilization must be built on the basis of mutual benefits of partners and a decentralized structure. The more interested the partners are, the more likely that a project of social mobilization can be sustained over time. This approach does not require that partners abandon their own interests and perceptions on a given issue but are willing to coalesce around a certain problem.
One of the basic requisites is that groups carefully consider the best-suited groups to partner for a specific program. A child survival and development program in Ghana, for example, started with an analysis to identify individuals and organizations with the potential to serve as partners in a social mobilization project. The study included three sub-studies: interviews with members of governmental institutions, trade unions, revolutionary organizations, and traditional leaders among others; media content analysis that suggested the need for collective efforts between journalists and health workers; and the assessment of health information sources among parents.
Mobilization is a process through which community members become aware of a problem, identify the problem as a high priority for community action, and decide steps to take action (Thompson and Pertschuk 1992). It starts with problem assessment and analysis at the community level and moves to action on chosen courses, involving many strategic allies at all levels in a wide range of support activities. Central to social mobilization interventions is empowerment or the process through which individuals or communities take direct control over their lives and environment (Minkler 1990).
Social mobilization suggests that wide community participation is necessary for members to gain ownership so innovations would not be seen as externally imposed. Community mobilization is one of the main resources in implementing behavior change. Social mobilization differs from traditional social marketing approaches that are largely based on appeals to individuals. When there is no individual interest in adopting innovations and, particularly in the context of developing countries, reaching people only through social marketing techniques is not effective, interpersonal channels stimulated by social mobilization allow the wide diffusion of concepts and innovations and increasing demand.
Social mobilization is closely interlinked with media advocacy. To McKee, social mobilization “is the glue that binds advocacy activities to more planned and researched program communication activities.” It strengthens advocacy efforts and relates them to social marketing activities. It makes it possible to add efforts from different groups to reach all levels of society by engaging in different activities
Examples of social mobilization interventions include World Bank (1992) nutrition and family planning projects in Bangladesh that also used a social mobilization approach by assigned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the role of mobilizing communities. It defined community mobilization as “the process of involving and motivating interested stakeholders (general public, health workers, policy- makers, etc.) to organize and take action for a common purpose. Mobilization of communities should focus on building confidence, trust and respect, increasing knowledge base, and enabling community members to participate, and become more proactive with regard to their own health behavior.”
McKee (1992) states that social mobilization programs require that government agencies, NGOs and donor agencies need to meet and review the objectives and methodology of the research, follow its progress through periodic briefings and give feedback on the final report. These activities have proven to
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Development Communication – MCM 431 VU
strengthen the sense of ownership among different stakeholders, which ultimately results in a more successful intervention.
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