The World Association for Christian Communication’s (WACC) Strategic Planning Process is well under way, boosted by a roundtable meeting of WACC partners that took place here April 27-28. Some 20 international participants addressed the challenges posed by participatory communication for development.

The roundtable took place during a meeting of WACC’s officers and was hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF).

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission worker and WACC President Dennis Smith led two days of intensive discussions, identifying communication as “the process by which we build meaning in common.”

WACC General Secretary the Rev. Karin Achtelstetter placed the meeting in the context of rapidly changing global and communication realities and WACC’s recently-initiated strategic planning process.

Participants heard Daniela Frank of the Catholic Media Council (CAMECO), Germany, offer an introduction that looked at trends in the development of media that emphasized the need to strengthen the institutional capacities of local/community media as a means to attain development and democratization goals.

Roel Aalbersberg, of the Netherlands-based Interchurch Organization for Development Co-operation pointed to a potentially “dangerous disconnect” between development work and communication work.

He commented that if communicators “do not succeed in becoming part of one another’s stories and life, we shall end up by losing one another completely.” In his opinion, WACC needs to address the topics of decentralization, alliance building, advocacy around communication rights, and knowledge-sharing about how communication and media function today.

Jutta Hildebrandt of the Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst in Germany stressed the importance of WACC being more visible internationally and of building alliances. She asked for a strong definition of how WACC understands communication for social justice ― a clear branding of what WACC stands for so that it is easily recognized. In addition she pointed to the need for impact assessment.

WACC project partner Joyce Larko Steiner, senior program officer at the Christian Council of Ghana, gave a presentation on a three-year project she has led ― with support from WACC and the UK Government’s Department for International Development ― to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in several areas of Ghana.

G. M. Mourtoza, of the Center for Communication and Development (CCD), Bangladesh, another WACC project partner, spoke on human rights and equitable development for all. CCD works with indigenous people in the northern part of Bangladesh deprived of access to many social benefits and facilities.

CCD carried out a pilot project on communication rights to empower eight communities to raise their voices and concerns working with journalists of mainstream media. It resulted in Radio Invo, the first indigenous internet radio in Bangladesh.

Lavinia Mohr, WACC’s director of programs, introduced the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), one of WACC’s longest-running initiatives, relating it to the notion that free and independent media are essential to democracy if accountability is to be expected from political, social, and economic players.

One of the problems, she said, is that, by and large, women are missing from the public sphere of news media, which is what the GMMP aims to tackle.