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Various Methods to Get the Message Across

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Guide

What technologies work with community residents and other trainees?

Mobilization, Training and Communication:

Much of mobilization work consists of communicating specific messages to groups.

As a mobilizer, in many ways you are a trainer of community members. If you are using these web pages to train mobilizers, you need to consider the same issues. Many of the same methods work as well with training mobilizers as with activating communities. The following are descriptions of various methods of communications. You should consider them all. Try those which you can see as practical. Always look for new and creative ways to communicate.

Remember that when your participants are encouraged to participate (in contrast to just watching or listening) they are likely to pay more attention, are more likely to retain more of the information, and are encouraged to build up their self esteem and self confidence.

Problem Solving Sessions:

Hold a meeting with community members. In the meeting, suggest to the members that they suggest solutions to community problems. This is not a firmly structured session like a Brainstorm session. Let members suggest various possibilities for solutions.

Keep them practical; avoid wishful thinking. If a member suggests a solution that requires some one else to do something or to provide something, point out that you and s/he do not have any control over others. Solutions need to be things that they can do, not what others should do. Encourage quiet members to offer their ideas.

Public Entertainment:

When you want a large community meeting (including rallies) with as many attending as possible, you may find it helpful to organize some entertainment. Local cultural associations such as dance groups, choirs, drum clubs, drama groups, and puppet players, are a good source of such entertainment. By having a show, more community members may be attracted to the event, and therefore participate in the more serious sessions that are on the agenda.

Furthermore, many of these amateur groups have in their repertoire some presentations that illustrate the principles and issues that you would raise with the community members as a mobilizer. Others may be open to work with you in writing new scripts, lyrics and plots to illustrate issues that you want to present.

Some of these groups are in the process of moving from amateur to professional status, and will appreciate the exposure, and would expect only a modest honorarium in instead of a large fee.

Although this is recommended to introduce and put on other places of the agendas of public community meetings, you would also find it useful and interesting to include such groups in the training workshops that you are arranging for mobilizer.

The dramatisation of issues helps your participants to retain the concepts after the meetings or workshops.

Proverbs and Stories:

Both proverbs and stories are useful in communications for both training and mobilization. They illustrate the principles, issues and concerns that you will raise in community organizing and in training mobilizers.

In the Training Methods module, see the Proverbs document for more details about using traditional sayings and wisdom for your own communications purposes.

Also see the document on Stories, which also point out that these are not merely to entertain participants, but are used to illustrate and make relevant the principles of empowerment and self reliance organizing.

Role Playing:

It is argued in several places on this web site that participation is among the best, if not the best, method of learning. Role playing is a communication method that allows participants to take up roles of various actors in situations common in empowerment processes.

Here we are suggesting that the method is equally valuable for both the training of mobilizers and for the mobilization of communities. Participants are assigned different roles of actors in specified situations. You can write the plot for them, but it is even more effective if the participants ad lib (think out the dialogue on the spot) or take some time to map out what they will say.

See the document that concentrates on Role Playing.

Audio Visual Media:

Various kinds of electric and electronic machines can be useful for enhancing communications. Film strips and slides are among the older of these. In general, these may be more useful for groups meeting inside, and less effective for large groups meeting outside. They would therefore be more applicable to training of mobilizers and community executive meetings than to the larger community meetings of the mobilization methods.

A bigger problem is that the technology is getting out of date (replaced by digital audio visual technology) and is rare in poor countries. More up to date technology includes video tapes, and DVD compact disks. Even more, these are more effective with smaller groups and indoors.

For larger groups, movies (cinema) can be more effective. Movies and movie projectors are not easily available, however, nor are they inexpensive, so they would be more available to international agencies than to governmental departments or local NGOs in low income countries.

Projectors that are designed to take small images on screens, such as on video machines and computers, are even more expensive and likely out of reach of low budget agencies.

Photographs and Video:

Photos can be used to illustrate principles, just as drawings, sketches and cut-outs can. If you have the technical capacity, you can enhance both community mobilisation and the training of mobilizers by getting them developed quickly, and using photos in which the participants recognise themselves.

You can, for example, make a scrap book with the participants acting out a scenario they devise as part of a role playing session. It can then be shown and used as a discussion stimulant in the same workshop. With digital photos, you do not have to develop photographic film, but can download photos from the camera to the computer and print them out immediately.

With a video camera, you can videotape a role playing session (eg a mobilizer speaking to other participants as if they were community members), then allow private and personal viewing of their speaking techniques for self criticism and self correction. The tape cartridges can then be erased to avoid them being seen publicly.


If you have access to an overhead projector, you can make overhead transparencies by hand for quickly designed sketches and notes for a workshop, dependent upon the contributions of participants. If you have a computer, a printer, and blank transparencies, you can even prepare material during a workshop.

Material made by participants during small group sessions can be copied onto blank transparencies and shown on the overhead. You can type and print such notes, or draw on sketches (such as those black and white line drawings used throughout this web site) stored in your computer, print them onto transparencies, and show them to your participants.

Any illustration (photos, pictures, diagrams, cartoons and line drawings) can be photocopied onto a blank transparency to be used during your presentation.

Flannel Boards:

One medium of communication that appears to be overlooked nowadays is the flannel board. I recommend that you use it.

What is so good about it is that its main ingredient, flannel, is usually available at any cloth shop, and you can construct the flannel board yourself. Flannel is a soft thick cloth. It comes in various colours. Another piece of flannel will hold onto it very easily (not so toughly as Velcro), and can just as easily be removed.

You can make your board out of any flat material. If you travel often, perhaps you can use a white board such as you find on a flip chart. The white board can be used itself with dry erase markers during participatory training session to record contributions, spell new words, or to outline a presentation. You can cover its face with a piece of flannel slightly larger than the board, and pin the flannel on around the back of the white board. That becomes the background on which you illustrate your stories.

You then need some figures to put onto that background. You can draw them and colour them with crayons or water paints. You can find them in magazines and catalogues and cut them out. You choose pictures from various topics that relate to the lessons or stories that you want to illustrate. You then cut out pieces of flannel in the shape of those figures you have drawn or cut out. Paste or glue (or staple) those pieces of flannel to the back of the illustrations. The illustrations will then easily stick to the flannel background, and can be moved about or removed as your presentation proceeds. You then use the flannel board to illustrate your story, lesson or situation.

In a workshop for mobilizers, you might wish to set up an afternoon for the mobilizer trainees to make flannel boards. Provide them with alternative materials, catalogues, magazines, scissors, stapler, glue, paste, large and small pieces of flannel with different basic colours, some boards on which to attach the background flannel, some pins to pin the flannel backgrounds to the boards.

You can group the participants in small groups of five or six people to construct their flannel boards. Then give each group an assignment to illustrate a mobilizer principle. Allow them overnight to prepare their lesson and the required illustrations. The following afternoon in the same workshop, each group can present its illustrated story.

Mixing Media:

Consider mixing (1) audio visual presentations, (2) your verbal presentations and (3) participatory contributions from trainees. This will considerably enhance your message, and contribute to much greater retention by the participants.

Switch back and forth between showing something audio visual, then some statements, then ask some questions that require answers from participants. It is easier to make a presentation totally with the audio visual presentation. But that is for the lazy trainer. Shifting back and forth between media will keep the participants more alert, and focused on the topic you wish to get across.

It is not necessary to use more than one kind of audio visual presentation (but you can if you wish) but you can shift between one medium and your speaking and the participants contributions. Not only are you permitted to use more than one media in a presentation, I highly recommend it.


A Training Session:

Training in a classroom

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2011.07.25

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