For more than 30 years, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs has held its annual Leadership in Strategic Communication Workshop in Baltimore as a way to help train the next generation of social and behavior change communication practitioners, bringing in participants from around the world.
About a decade ago, CCP began conducting a similar yearly workshop in Cote d’Ivoire, leading this one in French to accommodate SBCC practitioners in Francophone Africa. CCP sister organizations have also led the workshops annually in India and Nigeria in recent years.
But this year, the demand for the French workshop, led by a distinguished faculty of CCP’s public health, policy and development experts, has skyrocketed. Since May, CCP has conducted four two-week leadership workshops in French-speaking countries (Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar and Niger), training 155 participants thus far. Another session is scheduled for Cameroon in December.
This capacity strengthening helps local practitioners to create evidence-based communication strategies to promote the health and wellbeing of their fellow citizens. Organizers believe some of the surge in demand for the trainings may stem from a Francophone SBCC Summit led by CCP held earlier this year in Cote d’Ivoire.
“This workshop has been described as a ‘transformative’ experience by its alumni,” says CCP’s Mohamad Sy-ar, who is leading the Francophone effort. “By training so many more people in how to do this work, we can spread the word far and wide about how to create communication strategies that work to change harmful social norms and behaviors.”
Sy-ar, who has himself led some of the two-week Francophone workshops, says that the sessions draw many attendees from government ministries and SBCC programs who already work in the field.
“Before coming to the course, people think they’re good communicators,” he says. “After going through the course, they realize this is not simple communication. It’s strategic. It uses data. It uses a longstanding framework called the P Process to take people from analysis to implementation to evaluation. And it works if used correctly.”
Much of the funding for the newest Francophone workshops comes from USAID and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative.
Rambeloson Hasina, who works for the Ministry of Public Health in Madagascar, participated in the workshop in Madagascar. “It was a very useful course because it allowed me to discover new things,” he says. “This will allow me to strengthen my leadership skills in the field of health promotion.”
Says Soleman Kone Francis, an SBCC specialists for Catholic Relief Services in Madagascar: “This training gave me more clarification on communication strategy. The lessons learned will … be applied in our future projects.”