Participatory governance? The role of civil society-driven media platforms in Tanzania

by Admin on 12 November 2009

This project component is grounded in Tanzania and led by Professor Thomas Tufte, Roskilde University, Dept. of Communication, Business and Information Technologies (Denmark).

The project will focus on understanding the relation between a series of key stakeholders in development processes: civil society, media, policy-makers and policy-implementers, and ordinary citizens.

The project draws on Professor Tufte’s previous work in HIV/AIDS communication and communication for social change, indicating that over the years a number of the NGOs focused on HIV/AIDS communication have developed large media platforms. Those platforms use a multiplicity of media formats and communication technologies to enhance visibility, public debates, social mobilization and behaviour change. The question is: from a participatory governance perspective, what role are these platforms playing in development processes? Do they enhance citizen participation in governance processes?

The project will study the FEMINA Health Information Project (HIP) as its key case, and place FEMINA’s work in the broader context of the above-mentioned stakeholders. The project will deconstruct FEMINA’s communication strategy, studying in particular its whole ‘input’ or ‘encoding’ process and the ways in which FEMINA seeks to position itself in relation to key stakeholders, particularly decision-makers and opinion leaders, but also partners in civil society.

The project comprises three layers of inquiry that will be studied empirically over a total of 14 weeks of fieldwork spread in blocks throughout the duration.


What are the claimed participatory elements in the encoding process? By which means and in which ways do ordinary citizens contribute in deciding the editorial focus and/or the actual content of FEMINA’s media outlets? These questions will lead to an unpacking of production processes, including the formative and summative research processes. The purpose will be to uncover the ways in which for example clubs gathering radio-listeners in the communities, letters, school-driven feedbacks, SMS, emails, phone calls, participation in community mobilizing activities, and the widespread club structure, relate to the forming of a public debate around social and developmental issues.


A second layer of inquiry will be to study the elements of advocacy inherent in FEMINA’s communication strategy. What implicit and explicit strategies are employed to hold decision makers and public entities accountable to the policies they decided upon and are set to implement? The analysis will explore local, district and national levels of action and accountability. What strategies does FEMINA employ? (From agenda setting via its media platforms to community mobilisation and strategic communication approaches vis-à-vis key decision makers). In addition, how should those aspects of FEMINA’s communication strategy be monitored and evaluated?

Legitimacy and accountability

Thirdly, the legitimacy and accountability of FEMINA to those on whose behalf citizens it advocates will be explored through a multi-level analysis of perceptions of the organisation amongst users, consumers and participants in its media outlets/programs, as well as an analysis of FEMINA’s staff perception of themselves.


The project will entail a broad spectrum of primarily individual and focus group interviews with key stakeholders, decision makers, opinion leaders and partner organisations at the national level, plus a more limited application of similar methods in a small number of local communities. Complementary to this focus will be some interviews and Focus Group Discussions with the actual target audiences, the youth.

For expected outputs and time frame, see MEDIeA’s project description.