Participation and participatory content creation is at the heart of Community Radio. In keeping with this core philosophy, when Sesame Workshop India approached us to design an evaluation of their Radiophone India initiative for community radio, the team at Ideosync saw it as an opportunity to build a research culture and capacity within CR stations – and explore how such capacity building could result in other kinds of gains for the Community Radio stations.

The SCHWAB Radiophone Project by Sesame Workshop India Trust introduced an educational program series, Galli Galli Sim Sim, to 10 CR stations across north India. As part of evaluating the outcomes of this initiative, Ideosync trained ten Community Researchers, one from each station, in Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) methodologies. The researchers were asked to analyze and document their own work, as well as reflect upon the stories emerging from their communities while the Galli Galli Sim Sim programs were broadcast. Each researcher engaged with their local communities to understand how the programs were being received, creating exploratory maps of community experiences. The maps have facilitated engagement of the reporters with their communities, in a manner not extant earlier; and have been especially important in cases where this kind of interaction was lacking due to varying reasons. Apart from this, the discussions also functioned as an immediate feedback mechanism for the CR station and provided inputs into other production processes.

Mapping at Shivpuri Participatory research Venu AroraThe researchers’ constant and continuous process of observation and reflection to understand the project’s progress and simultaneous action to improve implementation, generated ownership by the researchers over the evaluation process as well as over the initiative as a whole. It is significant to note that the vast amounts of qualitative data emerging through the implementation of the project provides insights into learning processes at the CR stations, self analysis and assessments of the CR reporters and complexities and contextual notions of change within communities.

The process is also informing thinking around self-evaluation within stations while lending credibility to research and evaluations methodologies that become part of program cycles – and, indeed, replacing traditional pre and post methodologies to become part of the functioning of a community radio.

We hope to share results more widely as the research data is fully analyzed.

 Venu Arora, Ideosync