Social Mobilization: Who Is Involved?

I recently came across an interesting article on the role of “info-mediaries” within social mobilization. It really got me thinking about the actors involved within the process of social mobilization.

Who is it that mobilizes a society and produces change?shutterstock_world

I think it’s important to first talk about what social mobilization is.

What Is Social Mobilization?

Social mobilization, as the name suggests, is all about mobilizing society. It’s about empowerment and equity. It’s about taking action and producing social change. It’s about society. It’s about you and me.

Social mobilization, in the context of health promotion, is the process whereby various people and/or communities are engaged to raise awareness and promote social change on a health-related issue.

It’s about people taking action and making change for the common good.

PEOPLE –> ACTION –> COMMON GOOD

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The WHO (2003) notes that the above three elements are important components of social mobilization that are crucial for producing social change.

Health promotion is a social process and so is social mobilization. Social mobilization can be an intervention or it can serve as an intermediary that initiates dialogue and participation among various elements of society, all with the goal of promoting the common good (Panth, 2011). From a policy perspective, social mobilization serves as a supportive framework that focuses on resource allocation; from a grassroots perspective, social mobilization involves community empowerment in order to improve access to various health-related services, for example (Panth, 2011).

All in all, social mobilization is an integration of various stakeholders that work together towards a common goal.

The Importance of Social Capital

Social capital refers to the interaction between people. More specifically, it refers to the interactions that occur within social systems that harness these interactions (e.g. families, religious groups, etc.). The concept of social capital is one that is essential to the process of social mobilization. Social capital is so valuable that according to the WHO (2003), “Even in areas with limited economic capital, social capital has been shown to generate the energy and resources needed to effect changes in the community.”

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The Role of “Info-Mediaries” in Social Mobilization

With stakeholder input, social capital, community engagement, and advocacy in mind, let’s move onto the idea of “info-mediaries” within social mobilization.

Info-mediaries:

– work on the front line
– make contact with the appropriate clients
– are liaisons between management and stakeholders of the project
– recruited or voluntary
– can be expert professionals, NGOs, politicians, active youth (Panth, 2011)

Info-mediaries are important aspects of social mobilization because they identify stakeholders, encourage participation/stakeholder input, translate information for action, and advocate for improved resources/services (Panth, 2011). Info-mediaries, as their name suggests, mediate information between all of the various people involved within any social mobilization project. They connect different stakeholders and are the crucial channels of communication and information that can make any social mobilization work and be successful.

I would consider info-mediaries the “glue” that joins all of the different components of a social mobilization together.

Yet, what I find interesting is the opinion by some that info-mediaries are often overlooked within social mobilization literature. (I bet you hadn’t heard of info-mediaries before reading this post!) Some have stated that the significance of info-mediaries has been undermined; they are usually volunteers that are at the bottom of the hierarchy within social mobilization projects (Panth, 2011).

The lack of importance given to info-mediaries can lead to a “…one-way, top-down hierarchical informational flow at the cost of ignoring the vast storehouse of knowledge and potential of these ‘info-mediaries’ for two-way information exchange and knowledge sharing.” (Panth, 2011). The way I see it, info-mediaries are crucial aspects of social mobilization that aid with knowledge translation between the various actors involved. Without them, health cannot be promoted appropriately and goals cannot be reached adequately.

“Social mobilization seeks to facilitate change through a range of players engaged in interrelated and complementary efforts.” (UNICEF, 2012).

For more information, see the article by Panth (2011) on the World Bank blog: http://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/node/5670

Other resources on social mobilization, including applications to prevalent health problems:

Social mobilization for health promotion. WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific (2003).

http://www.unicef.org/cbsc/index_42347.html

http://www.stoptb.org/countries/acsm/

http://www.who.int/tdr/publications/documents/planning_dengue.pdf

An interesting article on info-mediaries from a business perspective:

https://apps.business.ualberta.ca/ddeephouse/Publications/Deephouse%20Heugens%202009%20JBE%20Intermediary%20process.pdf

– Misha B.

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