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  • Writer's pictureFavour Ogbadu

Communications for Development (C4D): Our Tool to Change the World

Updated: Feb 28

When you hear the word 'communication', what comes to mind?

I’m sure you picture talking and listening and you wouldn’t be wrong but in the world of global development, communication means so much more.

Development Communications also known as 'Communication for Development' (C4D) is, according to UNICEF, an evidence-based process that utilises a mix of communication tools, channels and approaches to facilitate participation and engagement with children, families, communities, and networks for positive social and behaviour change in both development and humanitarian contexts. 

The development/social impact sector has a focus on making the world a better place and this, a lot of the time, involves a call to action. From recycling to planting trees and even washing hands and avoiding food waste, there is something to do to create the positive change we all desire to see.

'How do we get there?' becomes the big question.

How do we get from where we are to where we need to be? How do we get people to positively change their lives thus changing the world?

Communications for development is all about asking How do we
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Beyond external interventions and policy changes, the world becomes better when we all play our part and that is where communication for development comes in. It involves deploying communication strategies to ensure development programmes receive maximum uptake as well as increasing capacity for sustainability and impact.

How Communications for Development has been used as a tool for change in the past

In April 2007, a popular TV show “Wetin Dey” aired in Nigeria. Most people may remember the show as fun-loving, sometimes controversial and absolutely interesting. What most people may not know however, is that the show was actually an educational drama series created by the BBC World Service Trust for development work in Nigeria to address the realities of living with HIV/AIDS. 

The TV show is a prime example of what it looks like to practically employ communication strategies in addressing development issues. HIVS/AIDS as a public health crisis was on an all-time rise in Nigeria in the early 2000s and there was a lot of misinformation and stigmatisation surrounding the epidemic which had to be addressed. 'Wetin Dey' was the brainchild of development practitioners working in the communication space and the show brought about the necessary awareness that led to change.

Other prime examples include South Africa’s Soul City and MTV’s Shuga. TV shows aren’t the only communication channels that can be used and health issues aren’t the only development concern they can be used for. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations uses C4D activities to enable rural people’s (including smallholder and family farmers) access to relevant information. Kurerie is another example of communication for development. By using digital media, online articles, and podcasts to shed light on social impact issues, we create change. Other examples have included information bulletins, TV and social media ad campaigns, community plays and radio broadcasts.

It is important to note however that development communication goes beyond information dissemination. Research has shown that the most effective communication strategies involve a participatory model of some kind. This means community involvement and stakeholder dialogue as a catalyst for individual and community empowerment. While you may have some development programme or project to implement, it is not enough that you inform a community and expect them to adopt your initiatives. True and sustainable impact can only be guaranteed when communities are themselves involved in the strategies being formulated as well as in the communication initiatives to be employed.

Development communication is still a developing field and new discoveries are still being made to aid in the effectiveness of the strategies but one thing is for certain, communication plays a vital role in social development. As a world desperate for change, we need to utilise all the weapons in our arsenal and communication is a really effective one.


  • Embrace communication as a tool for social change

  • Employ the participatory model in your communication approaches

  • Endeavour to grow and keep with the changing dynamics of development communications


WRITTEN BY Favour Ogbadu.

Favour Ogbadu is a certified lawyer and an aspiring International development practitioner. An avid reader, her passion for writing stems from her love of written works. She is a firm believer in using talents and skills for the greater good. Connect with Favour on LinkedIn.

EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.

Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development professional passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.

Want to connect with Zulu?

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or connect with her on Linkedin!


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