Non-Profit Youth Organisation

CM4K: a Community-University Learning Partnership

Peter DayBrighton (UK) / Mauritius, September 2017 - Community Media 4 Kenya is an active learning partnership with community at the centre of the curriculum. The training-the-trainer approach employs participatory learning workshops to consider issues of sustainable community development through community media tools, processes, and spaces. CM4K focuses on participatory communication and development for social change and currently comprises the Universities of Brighton and Rongo, as well as youth and civil-society organisations interested in empowering marginalised and disenfranchised communities through knowledge sharing and capacity building. Peter Day will introduce the work of CM4K at eLearning Africa and has kindly contributed the information below for CHECK.point eLearning.

Built from the bottom, CM4K is ready to extend its scope and is looking for partners to explore ways in which community-university partnerships might be developed to promote both community-based and community learning through innovative community communications.

Who are CM4K’s partners?

Peter Day: Community Media 4 Kenya (CM4K) is a community-university learning partnership. On the academic side of the partnership, it comprises students and staff from the University of Brighton in the UK and the University of Rongo, Migori County, and Kenyatta University, Nairobi in Kenya. Other universities in Kenya have made contact and are interested in becoming partners. On the community side, CM4K's main partners currently include non-profit youth organisations such as Junior Chamber International and Focus Youth Initiative in Nairobi, and the Organisation of African Youth in the rural region of Nyanza.

These organisations work to engage youth to have positive and peaceful impacts in their communities and are currently actively promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals programme in communities. CM4K also collaborates with community media enterprises such as Media Mashariki in Nayanza and Sema Media in Nairobi. In the past, CM4K has worked with communities in Kericho and Nyanza, where we ran participatory video workshops to promote peace during the 2013 general elections.

Currently, CM4K is collaborating with over fifty subsistence farmers from the remote rural area of Cham gi wadu in Migori County. Having conducted a pilot needs analysis, we are currently planning community-based participatory research to profile and map the community in order to identify the information and communication needs and assets prior to building a community radio station and media centre.

What are the objectives of these partnerships, and what types of impact are they working to achieve?

Peter Day: The main objective is to promote both academic and community learning in order to empower individuals, groups, and communities, as well as students, by exploring how dialogue and knowledge exchange can build the capacities and capabilities of students and communities alike. Students learn about themselves and real-world problems that they would in all likelihood not encounter, and communities learn that effective communications and dialogue in which knowledge is shared and made readily available assists in building active, healthy and sustainable communities by celebrating and welcoming diversity.

Participants learn that community media such as community radio and digital storytelling provide access to useful and relevant and reliable information; provide diverse communities and cultures spaces for their voices to be heard and knowledge shared; and builds community capacities, civic intelligence, and mutual respect through skills development, knowledge sharing, and dialogue.

The recent pilot community needs analysis in which seven rural agricultural groups from Cham gi Wadu participated demonstrated enthusiasm for community radio and an inherent understanding of the benefits that improved information and communication services and processes could bring.

How do the media partnerships influence learning?

Peter Day: The CM4K partnership is cross-sectoral in membership and seeks to develop living knowledge bases through the development of participatory information and communication strategies built through dialogue and knowledge among local communities, civil society, public agencies, and academia. The purpose of a living knowledge base is to address issues such as food security, governance, conflict resolution, and cultural communications utilising the practices of community media and community learning. 

Community and development practitioners such as Media Mashariki, OAYouth, and JCI play a significant role in the planning and implementation of the capacity building and training-the-trainer activities through their practice-based knowledge and ability to engage directly with the community partners. They will benefit from the knowledge and information to which they gain access. This provides them with credence and credibility in the work they do as intermediaries between communities; various levels of government; funders; and development agencies.

The CM4K collaboration enables them to raise and improve awareness of their organisations and the work they do, and in so doing creates synergy with partners from other stakeholder groups working collaboratively for community development and empowerment at the micro level. Community media supports diverse voices so that nobody is left behind.

Participating policy makers and development agencies will develop a richer understanding of the needs and issues facing real people in their communities by having the opportunity to engage in dialogue with them directly as equal partners. This will improve understanding of why and how community members seek to transform their lived experiences, and what they can do to provide meaning and relevant support to community efforts. This enables them to act upon their need for social transformation.

CM4K also provides platforms and processes for community members to make their voices heard and contribute to dialogue for change on an equal footing like the other partnership participants listed above. Community members will also develop new skills and knowledge in the use of community media tools, e.g. community radio, building both their individual and community capacities and capabilities to apply these skills in their everyday community activities.

By making the “community the curriculum” as the participating academic institution do, CM4K introduces real-world issues and problems into academic settings in innovative and challenging ways. CM4K enables academics to expand their understanding of the successes and challenges facing community appropriation of community media tools, spaces, and processes in support of sustainable community development. By applying the learned knowledge developed through dialogue and practices, academic participants develop a knowledge base of community media-related theories of communications for social change at the micro-level of sustainable community development.

Additionally, participating students grow and develop their knowledge and understanding of the world in ways that traditional class-based learning often prevents. Utilising the PEARLS (Partnership Education Action Research and Learning Scenarios) approach - an innovation of Dr. Day and students from the School of Media at the University of Brighton - students develop their relationships within the partnership firstly among themselves as young scholars and ultimately with the participating community organisations, groups, and citizens.

Students develop and apply their capacities in community-based participatory research and community media practice within traditional but often complex African environments and develop their capabilities to rise to the challenges that come with such partnerships. This community-based learning approach adopted by CM4K often sees undergraduate and master’s students further their learning in community media-research projects; master’s-level community research projects; and more recently PhD level community research.