Swedish development cooperation has for many years funded efforts to inform the broader Swedish public about development aid. Since 2010, Sida’s and Sida’s partners work in this area has been guided and financed under a specific strategy. The EBA study “Informed or knowledgeable: Evaluation of aid information and communication projects, 2010-2020” examines whether communication projects have contributed to increased knowledge about Swedish development cooperation among the public, and what factors impact on project effectiveness.
The authors show that projects demonstrate great breadth in terms of implementing organisations, activities and channels. Opinion polls reveal that while the public’s knowledge about aid has increased over the period 2010-2020, interest and engagement dropped. Though the projects examined reach their target audiences, their impact on the public’s level of knowledge are hard to establish. Media reporting about aid is found to lead to improved awareness, though the current media environment that lends itself to brisk and fragmented news reports rarely generate deeper knowledge.
The main conclusions developed in relation to the formulation and implementation of the coming strategy are the following:
- Information and communication work demands a broad approach that allows for multiple working methods and perspectives, as well as debate, analysis, and scrutiny.
- Knowledge development often requires interactivity, especially when the target group is uninterested in development issues.
- The public’s decreasing interest in development cooperation creates challenges for communication work and demands an increased understanding of, and more research on, the reasons behind growing disinterest.
- Regular and in-depth evaluations of projects would increase the implementing organisations’ chances to learn about which methods best enable knowledge development.