Dr. Louisa Edgerly, an independent scholar with a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, where she will study the work of the International Conservation and Education Fund (INCEF), a non-profit organization that produces and distributes films on the topics of conservation and health in central Africa. INCEF’s main focus is on reaching rural audiences in remote areas, with largely illiterate populations. They bring their films to remote villages, screen them for the entire local population, and then use dialogue and discussion to enhance the learning experience initiated by viewing the films. The Republic of Congo is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country, and INCEF uses local speakers and local languages in their films, with the aim of connecting with local audiences. This local approach to communication aligns very closely with the approach of the ethnography of communication, and with the aims and interests of the University of Washington’s Center for Local Strategies Research, which is collaborating on the project.
The main goals of this first trip to Congo are to gain familiarity with the region, make closer contacts with INCEF’s staff, and make some initial field observations of INCEF’s dialogues and film screenings. As a pilot project for a longer-term project, this first field trip will allow Dr. Edgerly to build key local contacts, refine her overall research questions, and assess the feasibility of future field projects. In addition, this first trip will reveal what may prove to be some key terms and norms among the community of health and conservation communicators working in Congo. This information will be valuable in the longer term project of studying the communicative norms in the global health and development community.