This Unit describes how to initiate community mobilization, which is essential to the success of an emergency response plan.
The key to everything discussed thus far is the active participation of community members and leaders. Unit 3 provides a series of community mobilization tools and tips on how to do this, and highlights how the community needs to be involved from the very initial stages of the emergency response.
Having completed this Unit, you should will have the following tools to assist you in engaging communities to support your communication efforts during an emergency.
What is Community Mobilization?Community mobilization is a process that aims to engage all sectors of the community to prompt individual, family and community action. It uses a variety of community engagement approaches to raise awareness and empower individuals and groups toward those actions, creating an enabling environment and effecting positive change. Community mobilization can include activities such as door-to-door outreach, public meetings, health fairs, participatory theatre and other activities. Importantly, mobilization efforts are community driven, and community members are active participants in defining the problem, generating solutions and evaluating the outcomes of those solutions.
Why Community Mobilization Is ImportantCommunity mobilization increases the capacity of a community to identify and address its own needs while generating local solutions to problems. For instance, because of its participatory approach, community mobilization ultimately strengthens and enhances the ability of a community to work together towards a common goal. Through its emphasis on prompting reflection and dialogue about current barriers and facilitators, coupled with actions individuals and communities can take to achieve their goals for improved health and wellness, it also contributes to the sustainability of any given action.
Understanding how communities perceive and comprehend a problem is necessary to design adequate interventions. Engaging with community members is crucial to building trust and credibility so that messages are accepted, and protective actions more likely to be taken.
Working with localized community groups, using existing structures, is highly recommended as the emergency efforts will build on an established network and trusted relationships and better ensures sustainability of emergency preparedness efforts. In Sierra Leone, during the Ebola response, emergency communication teams worked with the Village Development Committee, Family Member Committees and many youth groups.Community engagement is the one factor that underlies the success of all other control measures – Abramowitz et al, 2015
Especially in the cases of contagious diseases, such as Ebola, integrating community mobilization into the emergency response allows for mobilizers to provide information regularly about what is happening in the community, the roles of emergency responders and, importantly, feedback information to the community about the status of the emergency and of loved ones who have been affected by the consequences of the emergency.
Key Steps for Effective Community Mobilization