Com­mu­ni­ty Engage­ment — How Grass­roots Radio is cul­ti­vat­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion

Grass­roots Radio keeps on unfold­ing its activ­i­ties of com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment in the project pilot sites: Ire­land, Por­tu­gal, and Roma­nia. To high­light the cru­cial role of these activ­i­ties the lat­est issue of the project fact­sheet is ded­i­cat­ed to com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment, pro­vid­ing a def­i­n­i­tion and its appli­ca­tion in the project.

In Grass­roots Radio, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment is main­ly a process that aims to under­stand the needs of peo­ple locat­ed in a spe­cif­ic area, and to include them in the design of tech­nolo­gies. It aims to ensure mem­bers have pow­er in deci­sion-mak­ing and in the activ­i­ties that con­cern them. To do this effec­tive­ly, the project adopts a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry design approach to set­ting-up and adapt­ing the radio tech­nol­o­gy. Par­tic­u­lar atten­tion is made to also engage the diver­si­ty of peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty, and to offer tools where­by to address any future issues and to enable par­tic­i­pa­tion of diverse groups.

Train­ing on how to stream a music pro­gramme using the rootIO plat­form on Cape Clear island

The activ­i­ties cur­rent­ly under­way include events to launch radio sta­tions in each coun­try, train­ing events for radio, com­mu­ni­ty inter­ests and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry design events. Such a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry approach to com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment means, in the first place, to rec­og­nize the exper­tise of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers as active voic­es in a shared process of cre­ative inquiry and inno­va­tion, while hon­or­ing local iden­ti­ty (e.g. cul­tur­al and lin­guis­tic expres­sion), and sus­tain­ing exist­ing com­mu­ni­ty con­nec­tions.

Two main roles of radio are emerg­ing out of com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment in the project: radio as forum and radio as archive.

The design of com­mu­ni­ty radios in the project pilot sites is pin­point­ing the use of the radio as a forum to delib­er­ate on future devel­op­ment, to dis­cuss what is need­ed and what peo­ple want, and to influ­ence poli­cies con­sti­tutes an effec­tive tool to fos­ter com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. In Ire­land, the com­mu­ni­ties sug­gest that the radio could be a plat­form to dis­cuss fund­ing received by devel­op­ment groups and how they use it, and as a space of delib­er­a­tion to dis­cuss issues — e.g. sus­tain­abil­i­ty of fish­ing reserves sur­round­ing the preser­va­tion of the islands’ beau­ty ver­sus the eco­nom­ic need for fish farms. In Roma­nia, the two com­mu­ni­ty radios built through the project are used as a show-case that is meant to pave the way for the devel­op­ment of sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ty chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, fos­ter­ing the plu­ral­ism of sources of infor­ma­tion and increas­ing free­dom of speech in rur­al areas.

Com­mu­ni­ty radios are also used as an archive to pre­serve the oral his­to­ries of all the com­mu­ni­ties — espe­cial­ly record­ing the old­er gen­er­a­tions and as a way to store and bear wit­ness to old­er ways of life. In Roma­nia, for exam­ple, the two radio sta­tions gen­er­at­ed a large col­lec­tion of oral his­to­ries, through the inter­views with the elders in the com­mu­ni­ty. They talk about com­mu­ni­ty issues, their life sto­ries, local sto­ries, local tra­di­tions, crafts, and fish­ing. In Ire­land, a pro­gramme called post­cards of the past doc­u­ments people’s mem­o­ries of grow­ing up on Bere island.

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