A new approach to communication in Bolivia

A communication diagnosis done with Uniterra partner organisations showed important gaps in both internal and external communications. Valérie Boire, a Uniterra Social Communication volunteer, drew inspiration from a previous experience in Guatemala to support all the program’s partners through the exchange of communication experiences between themselves and between all the countries of intervention of the program, including Canada. That is how Bolivia came to initiate several interesting initiatives that greatly improved local partners communications.

Competency transfer

A team of communicators created within the OEPAIC Network (Red de Organizaciones Económicas de ProductoresArtesanas(os) con Identidad Cultural) receiving training on several technical themes and the use of communication tools such as Internet navigation, the use of email, various software programs (Word, Photoshop), interview techniques, writing and editing news bulletin, designing databases and relations with communication medias. After the training period, the volunteer continued to accompany the team for a while to monitor the replication and implementation of the newly acquired skills. In the end, the team succeeded in developing various bulletins and memos, conducting and disseminating interviews within the organisations, and generating interviews with the national radio and television.

All the communication material was developed in a participative manner and craftsmen and crafts-women were able to practise their learnings in other OEPAIC organisations. Moreover, the communication training also improved the craftsmen’s leadership skills and one of them was appointed on his organisation’s management team.

Recognising oral communications

A project was developed with the OEPAIC Network to improve communications between members, taking into account the importance of oral communication and the various indigenous languages used within the network. Following the Andean tradition of “ch’askis”, messengers that travelled all over the region to transmit news from village to village, eight communicators were trained in interview techniques and the use of digital recordings. The communicators then travelled to the root organisations of remote regions to record testimonies on specific themes and in the interviewee’s language. The interviews were then translated into different dialects and shared via email, Facebook or CDs where there was no access to Internet. These oral bulletins easily and efficiently replaced the formal written news bulletins.

The use of technology

With the support of the volunteer, a website was constructed to be used as an online communication and collaboration tool between the volunteers, the partners, and the program staff in Bolivia. From now on, information on activities, experiences and tools are shared, and events of common interest are posted. Volunteers can also put up the tools they developed for the benefit of all the partners. And the Bolivia office staff can now easily communicate with the partners and facilitate the sectoral dynamics. A bank of multimedia resources (photos, videos and audio clips) was also developed and made available for use with other means of dissemination. Finally the platform chosen to build the site is a WorldPress open source, which does not necessitate high level investment technologies and allow for an easy adaptation throughout the years.

Awareness Campaigns

Partners had mentioned the need to be trained in planning and implementation of awareness campaigns on themes of interest. To follow up on their demand, the volunteer conducted several training activities with people selected from the partners for their competencies, engagement and motivation

Five out of the eight Uniterra program partners participated at the training and now have the tools to develop and implement awareness campaigns on various themes such as the promotion for a clean city, the Aymara culture, the national textile sector, fair trade, and the use of organic fertilizers.

The training process included a series of five theoretical workshops and practical follow-up activities. In each workshop, the participants had to plan a step of an awareness campaign and afterwards implement it within its organisation.

The on-going monitoring of participants by the volunteer enable them to structure communication and awareness objectives, and secure the engagement of key members of their organisations.

Today, communications is an integrated strategic and cross-cutting function for all Uniterra’s partner organisations in Bolivia. Thanks to the new tools and activities, the relationships between the members are more efficient; they now use modern technology resources, integrated new skills and, at the same time, recognise cultural assets such as oral communications.