A five-day Seminar on Strategic Communication Development Planning for Sarawak Development Project Planners and Implementers was conducted on June 22-26, 2015 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The workshop addressed the need for the state government's development planners to have basic knowledge and skills in communication for development (ComDev) to engage stakeholders, build trust and meet increasing expectations.
Using the Communication for Rural Development Sourcebook published by FAO in 2014 as the main reference, 25 officers from key government agencies and statutory bodies of the State of Sarawak went through the various steps in communication planning through group exercises.
They made use of real field data compiled earlier by their projects and agreed to gather whatever are still missing in succeeding weeks on their own time. Projects worked on include dam construction, development of native customary right lands, and road expansion and upgrading. Despite that projects are already on-going, participants believe that it is not yet too late to go to the basics in terms of stakeholder participation in the project development process.
Participants went through this face-to-face workshop as the first part of an 18-week blended learning program consisting also of skype meetings and virtual exchanges via email, a group in CCComdev community and the mobile phone application WhatsApp. Divided into five groups, participants make follow up virtual consultations with their assigned advisers from CDC-UPLB.
The State Secretary of Sarawak, who graced the opening program, made a pronouncement on the state support to Comdev as the “core of any development effort.” Capping his speech was his announcement that the state will provide scholarship grants to five participants for a graduate course in development communication in UPLB.
The entire learning program is organized by the Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) - a non-profit research institute providing independent inputs to complement the decision and policy-making process in Sarawak. Resource persons and advisers include Cleofe Torres, Serlie Jamias, Dean Ma. Theresa Velasco and Ma. Stella C. Tirol, professors at the College of Development Communication of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).
Read a related article published on The Borneo Post