The retirement project of George Stuart Atkins: development radio in the time of cybernetics

This publication is available in Volume 27, 2017 – Issue 8 of Development in Practice

For years after its start-up in 1979, Farm Radio International (FRI) sent radio scripts and other material to broadcasters in more than 100 developing countries, believing it reached as many as 100 million people. By 2000, however, its unidirectional scattershot approach was being questioned by both communication specialists and its principal donor. Following a four-year struggle to reorganise its mission, programmes, and funding, FRI found new purpose, a new donor, and solid evidence of impact. The viewpoint offers lessons in management, communications for development, donor infatuation with “The Next Big Thing”, the difference between information and knowledge, and how people learn.

Pendant des années après son lancement en 1979, Farm Radio International (FRI) a envoyé des scripts et d’autres documents à d’autres émetteurs dans plus de 100 pays en développement, et est ainsi persuadée d’avoir atteint jusqu’à 100 millions de personnes. Cependant en 2000, son approche unidirectionnelle de saupoudrage a été remise en question à la fois par des spécialistes de la communication et son principal donateur. À la suite d’un conflit interne de quatre années autour de la réorganisation de sa mission, de ses programmes et de ses financements, FRI a trouvé son nouvel objectif, son nouveau donateur et des preuves solides de son impact. Ce point de vue offre des leçons de gestion, de communication pour le développement, de stimulation de l’intérêt des donateurs pour « La Prochaine Révélation », de méthode de différenciation entre information et connaissances, et d’enseignement aux personnes.

Durante varios años que siguieron a su nacimiento en 1979, Radios Rurales Internacionales (rri) envió guiones de radio y otros materiales a distintas emisoras localizadas en más de 100 países en desarrollo, bajo el supuesto de que los mismos habían alcanzado hasta 100 millones de personas. A pesar de ello, para el año 2000 tanto los especialistas en comunicaciones como su principal donante cuestionaban sus métodos unidireccionales y dispersos. Después de cuatro años de esfuerzos destinados a reorganizar su misión, sus programas y su financiamiento, rri encontró un nuevo cometido, un donante nuevo, y pudo comprobar su impacto de manera sólida. El presente punto de vista aporta aprendizajes en torno a cuestiones de gestión, comunicaciones para el desarrollo, la obsesión de los donantes por apoyar “el último grito de la moda”, la diferencia entre información y conocimiento, y la manera en que las personas aprenden.

KEYWORDS: Technology – Media, ICT, Aid – Aid effectiveness, Civil society – Participation, Environment (built and natural) – Agriculture, Food security, Social sector – Education

Smillie, Ian. “The Retirement Project of George Stuart Atkins: Development Radio in the Time of Cybernetics.” Development in Practice 27, no. 8 (November 17, 2017): 1133–40.

Notes on contributor
Ian Smillie has lived and worked in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. He was a founder of the Canadian NGO, Inter Pares, and was Executive Director of CUSO. He has worked at Tufts and Tulane Universities and as a development consultant with many Canadian, American, and European organisations, with primary emphasis on South Asia and West Africa. He is the author of several books, including The Charity of Nations and Freedom from Want. His most recent book, Diamonds, was published in 2014. He chairs the Diamond Development Initiative and is the past President of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID).

Year Published:
Kevin Perkins
Publication Type:
Countries of Intervention:
Partner Organizations:

Subscribe for Updates

Get the latest news and inspiring stories from Farm Radio International right to your inbox.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.