PhD to develop participatory media for Indonesian agricultural research system

16 Dec 2015

Last week UQ PhD student Vira Riyandari Ramelan successfully completed her second PhD milestone, the Mid-Candidature Review, proving she is on track to her goal of developing effective participatory media to support the agricultural research system in Indonesia

Her research, entitled Participatory Approaches in Media Development: An Action Research Project to Facilitate and Analyse Institutional Change in Agricultural Research for Development in Indonesia, is supervised by A/Prof. Elske van de Fliert, A/Prof. Pradip Thomas.

“The overall objective of my research project is to facilitate and analyze the process of institutional change to improve practice of participatory approaches in media development in the agricultural research system in Indonesia,” says Vira.

“In Indonesia, Assessment Institutes for Agricultural Technology (AIATs) are the provincial level implementation units of the Indonesian agricultural research and development system.  They play strategic role  in  making the link between the national level agricultural research stations and the development agencies This is done by conducting an ‘adaptive research’, engaging farmers in assess technology resulted from the research stations, adapt and repackage it to suit specific local conditions and needs. The role of participatory communication approaches is crucial to facilitate this process.

“My research areas are in two selected AIATs, one in Banten province, Java and one in West Nusa Tenggara province in south-central Indonesia.

“To date, both these organisations predominantly see media as part of ‘message delivery system’ and the needs of the target audience are not considered. They interpret communication as disseminating or spreading out information widely, rather than as a process of engaging and developing a shared understanding.

"Although various media material had been produced and participatory approaches were introduced since 2003, yet, their effectiveness remains limited due to poorly targeted media planning and the absence of the framework on participatory approaches for effective media development that suits AIATs conditions," says Vira.

Vira employs Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology to examine limitations and opportunities of institutionalizing participatory approaches in media development in the context of the Indonesian agricultural research system. PAR involves AIATs staff to collaboratively conduct the sequential stages of diagnostic, framework development, field-test and evaluate the framework in two selected AIATs.

“Institutionalising participation should be done in participatory ways, and PAR fits well with the purpose of this study”, Vira explains the motivation of using participatory action research for her project.

“It is my hope that the tested framework resulting from this study will enable the two AIATs to develop effective participatory media to support the agricultural research system in Indonesia.

“It is also possible that the framework can be used to scale-up the participatory approaches in media development among other AIATs throughout Indonesia.

“My ‘big picture’ aim is that this study contributes toward the broader literature and practice on how to institutionalize participatory approaches in the context of public sector agencies,” says Vira.

Vira commenced her PhD in 2010 and will submit her completed thesis in November 2013. She came to UQ first as a Masters of Communication (Communication for Social Change) student, after a career in development and conservation projects in Indonesia.