Swedish development cooperation has for many years been accompanied by specific efforts to inform and communicate about aid to the Swedish public and since 2010, this work is guided by a specific strategy. The EBA study “Informed or knowledgeable: Evaluation of aid information and communication projects, 2010-2020” explores how communication projects have contributed to increased knowledge about Swedish development cooperation among the public, and which factors have affected project effectiveness.
The authors show that projects demonstrate great breadth in terms of implementing organisations, activities, and channels. Opinion polls reveal that the public’s knowledge about aid has increased over the period 2010-2020, while interest and engagement have dropped. The studied projects reach their target audiences, but their effects on the public’s level of knowledge are hard to establish. Media reporting about aid can lead to increased awareness, but the media logic’s quick and fragmented news rarely generate deeper knowledge.
Main conclusions in relation to the formulation and implementation of the coming strategy:
- The information and communication work demands a broad approach, which gives room for multiple working methods and perspectives as well as debate, analysis, and scrutiny.
- Knowledge development often requires interactive components in projects, especially when the target group is uninterested in development issues.
- The public’s decreasing interest in development cooperation creates challenges for the communication work and demands an increased understanding of, and more research on, the reasons behind the growing disinterest.
- Regular and in-depth evaluations of projects would increase the implementing organisations’ chances to learn about which methods enable knowledge development.
Maria Grafström, Associate Professor, Stockholm University
Cecilia Strand, Senior Lecturer, Uppsala University