“You have given us courage to speak”

 “You have given us courage to speak and express our views in front of men!”

One female participant’s words express the exciting outcome of a recent HCR Pakistan workshop on creating community-centred radio. Five women and nine men took part in the workshop in a rural village in Pakistan.

At the start of the workshop, the participants said they wanted to raise their voices on behalf of the poor. One woman said she wanted to be a champion for those who are marginalised.

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

A health worker in the community is already using radio to include marginalised voices in community conversations. He goes around the village speaking to a variety of people, recording their opinions on health and development topics. He and the HCR Pakistan director, Mr Hazeen Latif are eager for the radio to be even more inclusive by building a team of volunteers within the community to help design and produce the programmes too.

The group learned the basic principles of community centred radio, how to make Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and how to interview people for radio. The quality of the practical work was very high, one team’s work reaching what we call ABS – Above Broadcast Standard.

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Yet a big challenge in this traditionally male-dominated culture was how to have men and women participating in the workshop together. Sitting in the same room for a public event is not the norm.

As the practical exercises began, the women’s voices were too quiet to be heard. The women realised that if they wanted to be inclusive activists, they had to overcome their fears of speaking out. As the course continued, they found more confidence. They said later that they began to see the facilitator as a friendly, fatherly figure, making the workshop a safe environment for speaking. The men were impressed at how passionately the women would argue their points publicly.

Confidence grew within the workshop, but the trust that led to this has been growing over several years. Mr Latif and the community health worker have collaborated on the Naway Saher project for about four years, facilitating a variety of community development activities. They have patiently built trust with each other and with the community.

Trust has been essential in arriving at the point where the workshop was possible. Trust was also essential for the workshop to become truly inclusive. Trust gives hope that the new team will be successful in their goal to be champions for the poor and marginalised.

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Got my confidence back!

On 26th February, Hazeen Latif, Director of HCR in Pakistan visited Charsadda to present a refresher course for a previous radio group who were trained in 2014. The meeting was held at the residence of Asad Ullah, an active community member and a certificate holder of the HCR Radio Skills Training Workshop.

The content of the refresher course covered the strengths and weaknesses of radio, types of microphone, how to use the microphone, and target the audience. The participants found the training valuable, and in the words of Asad Ullah, “this refresher course has helped me get my confidence back in using the microphone and availing myself of every opportunity as host of a program on my local FM station. Thanks so much to HCR for their follow up and support."

Hazeen as he facilitates the refresher course

Hazeen as he facilitates the refresher course

Disaster Response Radio TRAINING IN Pakistan

Photo courtesy of First Response Radio

Photo courtesy of First Response Radio

Following the Asia Tsunami and numerous earthquakes in Pakistan, radio broadcasters have come to see the need for a fast, disaster-response radio plan to assist in recovery from a disaster.  Based on these experiences, HCR worked with broadcasters to develop the programme now used by the First Response Radio Network (FRR) which includes training in the needed equipment, a programming system based on the listeners' need for critical information and a workshop to teach radio journalists, relief workers and government personnel how to put these into use in the field.  Since 2007 over 12 workshops have been held across the Philippines, India, Nepal and Indonesia.

In collaboration with First Response Radio, a 5-day workshop and 3-day field trial will be held in Pakistan from 21st to 29th March, 2017.   For more information to be a participant or observer, please contact

It's a ting thing

By Ross James

A number of years ago the word ting made its way into my vocabulary. Google it and you'll find it is a wireless service provider for cell phone services, a carbonated grapefruit drink, a way of saying 'thing' and--well you take a look.

But the Chinese character for ting grabbed my attention when I learned the separate characters for eyes, ears, attention, king and open heart--when combined--form the verb to listen or obey.

In my workshops around the world I show the ting character and ask participants what they think it means. In only one workshop, in Moscow, did anyone get it right. Not only did this Russian man know the word ting but he also identified the different sub-characters that form the verb. "How on earth do you know that?" I was astonished. It turns out that the KGB (the Soviet Union's former spy and state security apparatus) had identified his skills at learning languages, put him through an intensive and advanced Mandarin course, sent him off to Ulanbaatar in Mongolia and there he sat in a tiny room listening to the secret radio transmissions of the Chinese military.

HCR uses the “ting” to help explain what we call community-centred media (CCM), which begins with doing little more than listening, or should I say “listen-ting”. CCM resists the urge to deliver messages to the community and instead puts them at the centre of the communication process, listening to their needs and building on their strengths. It ensures they play their part in message-making, as well as community-level decision-making. This then enables two complementary approaches.

The first approach is a partnership between community, media and service providers that embraces four strategies: sharing resources, using local voices, community field work (we call it getting our shoes dirty) and handing over the mic. In other words giving away control of the communication agenda and process to the community.

The second approach is to deploy what we call the Five Tasks of Media. The CCM partnership together creates a transformative dynamic for social change of onair messages and offair activities that inform, educate, advocate, facilitate social learning and, yes!, even entertain.

Participants in our workshops quickly understand the difference between CCM and provider-directed communication; CCM is community-centred because we come to the project with questions, not answers. To do the ting thing is to come to the community first with a non-self perspective: to listen with compassion (heart), focus (undivided attention), respect (king), assessment (eyes and ears and mind).

All this came to mind when I saw Ernesto Sirolli’s TED talk ( in which he offered this advice: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

Then, last week, our CEO Dane Waters told us about a briefing for partners of state government services that he attended. Apparently, the buzz word is “innovation” in government-funded service delivery. One speaker maintained innovation included “talking to other people, people you don’t usually talk to”. As Dane said with tongue-in-cheek: What a good idea!

When faced with a problem, many well-intentioned community development or health promotion workers reach for their “best practice” or “evidence-based” project plans. In my experience, the first thing to do is the ting thing. A UN agency told HCR, "You're the first consultants we've had who spent a lot of time asking questions to learn about our context and didn't come to us with a prepared plan".

Put simply, the ting thing is the key to understanding that HCR's community-centred media strategies start with the community, not media; begin with listening, not talking. The ting thing process opens minds and options, which transforms relationships between service providers and vulnerable, marginalised communities. We believe this brings positive social change.

Whether that is innovative or otherwise is not for me to say. But I do know that, for a long time, the ting thing has been HCR's way of putting communities at the centre.

Dr Ross James is the founder of HCR


First Response Radio Training in the Philippines

The concept for First Response Radio was developed by HCR in 2001 and first deployed after the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The Rapid Response Radio Unit (RRRU), as it was then called, is a portable radio broadcasting system small enough to fit in a suitcase with a team of radio producers specifically trained to quickly broadcast critical information to communities following a disaster.

The program became independent and was renamed First Response Radio (FRR) in 2012, and continues to deliver life-saving information, via radio to affected communities in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Watch this short video to learn more about how First Response Radio works:

HCR remains involved as a partner and has representation on the FRR management committee. FRR and HCR continue to contribute to each other's activities in training design, training delivery, deployment and research and evaluation.

Jan Bayliss of HCR Australia and Hazeen Latif of HCR Pakistan were part of an international team which recently delivered FRR training in the Philippines. The training was conducted in Tagbilaran in the southwest of the island province of Bohol.

Jan has written this reflection on the latest FRR training in Tagbilaran:

Bohol is a Philippine island subject to typhoons, earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters. Last year it suffered a major earthquake. It’s also the home of one of the cutest and smallest of the monkey family – the big-eyed Tarsier.

When we held FRR training for the use of radio in disasters, Bohol sent two TARSIER's to the course. Not little monkeys, but two men from TARSIER, the local emergency response agency (Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response). We also had participants from several international organisations with varying skill sets including on-air staff and techies, humanitarian workers and government disaster management people. It was a great mix of talents, experience and contacts – just the thing we aim for in our training.

We learnt how agencies coordinate their responses in times of disaster and the crucial role radio can have in delivering life-saving information. We learnt how to script and speak so that the affected people could quickly and easily understand. We learnt strategies that would involve the communities and help bring healing. We learnt how to operate the studio-in-a-suitcase. A highlight for some technophobes was demonstrating that they could connect an antenna to a transmitter and set up the whole station.

Transport from the airport in Tagbilaran.

Transport from the airport in Tagbilaran.

When the team reached Bohol for the Field Trial we saw the great advantage of having TARSIER's on the team, with their local contacts.  Even with only 48 hours on air we quickly established an audience and were able to find answers to questions they had about the rebuilding process. After the Field Trial, seven participants stayed for another week’s training of trainers.

Practising a studio interview.

Practising a studio interview.

So how effective was the training? All the participants were engaged and keen. They learnt new concepts and new skills and they put them into practice in the field trial. FRR Philippines have a cross-disciplinary team with a great network of contacts. These are great beginnings, but the real proof of our training success will come next February when the newly trained FRR Philippines team runs their own first training and we will have worked ourselves out of a job!

Trainee setting up a playlist.

Trainee setting up a playlist.

Trainees on air at the field trial.

Trainees on air at the field trial.