Low tech advocacy: comics power in Sri Lanka

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As an official member of the Beano fan club since the age of 8 (oh yes!), I have always been keen on comics. So, I was particularly interested in the work of some of our Sri Lankan partners who are piloting the use of comics for local level budget advocacy.

As I’ve said before on this blog, we have to recognise that monitoring government budgets and spending is not perhaps the easiest thing in the world to talk to people about- particularly in contexts where social accountability is a relatively new concept. And it isn’t made any easier when trying to talk to non-literate communities about it either, as the majority of budget information is numbers-based and much of the terminology can be quite difficult to explain.

So how do we make talking about and engaging with budgets more accessible? Some agencies have had success in using ICTs to increase budget accountability e.g. WorldBank ICT4GOV project using mobiles in DRC. But, in this particular context, we thought we would see what we could achieve using low-tech solutions. That’s right, the good old pen and paper methodology.

We linked four of our Sri Lankan partners who are working to increase community understanding of and engagement on budget issues with World Comics India.

Partners underwent some basic training about how to develop comics to help them get their message across to their target audiences (which, I assure you, is possible even for those with limited artistic talent!). And, as there’s always a chance that drawings can be misinterpreted (particularly if no words are being used), partners also considered how to manage risk when using comics for advocacy.

Some very interesting comics were produced at the workshop (see picture above) and partners are now going on to start piloting the methodology in their day-to-day work.

Watch this space for updates on how they get on and whether this methodology really strengthens their advocacy work with communities.

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