Peer Review Exercise: Pathways to learn and a resolve to affirm

Imagine this: A Community Radio Station, in the middle of nowhere, managed by members of a community for three years now, wants to know if all it has done so far is correct. Has it erred in looking for money to sustain its cost? Rent out premises? Not pay volunteers? Charge local artists? The management committee do not know where to look for help.

Sounds familiar?

The dilemma of Community Radio Stations has been more than a quandary-some. It has been existential. And this is not a situation peculiar to India alone. Given their nature, Community Radio Stations cannot afford the services of highly paid consultants, for money is a luxury. And, perhaps, they were right in thinking that the government, by providing them a spectrum, has done its bit – so that they shouldn’t really ask the government for money to hire a well-groomed, technology-savvy Smart Alec to tell them exactly how they are doing – as the popular imagination goes, to hire someone to look at your watch and tell you the time!

Nor, for that matter, has the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting found this a necessary step.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has felt the need for a self assessment and regulation exercise just so that Community Radio Stations desirous of improving their ways of functioning and performance, find out exactly how they are doing and where they have gone wrong – and to top it, learn how others found solutions to the very problems they have faced with.

The Ministry, with help of experts and practitioners who have developed tools for self-assessment by Community Radio Stations, initiated a process for self-assessment and peer-learning early this year. The self-assessment exercise undertaken by the Community Radio Stations is indeed a realisation of the idea behind putting together this tool. Thirty Community Radio Stations have been involved in the peer review process – each visiting two different Community Radio Stations, evaluating together how they have done and learning how they could do things differently in the days to come.

In simple words, a group of peers going over, studying, analysing, appraising, considering and even reconsidering. It was a peer review.

The peer review began with an introduction to the tools developed for the process so that the participants in the exercise understood the nitty-gritty of the course.

The thirty representatives of Community Radio Stations, peers all, met in New Delhi recently, at a workshop to follow up on the process, each presenting their experiences and learning.

As Vandana R. Jaikumar from the Bangalore-based Radio Active says, “Even though one practitioner from a Community Radio Station visited two stations and received visitors from two Community Radio Stations, the peer experience sharing workshop ensured that we get to learn all of what all 30 Community Radio Stations had to offer.” “We could listen to all the station, their experiences and also look at how certain suggestions could help us as well,” she adds.

Swadesh Samaiya from Chanderi Ki Awaaz threw light on how it helped. “Since the inception of Chanderi Ki Awaz in 2009, the station never thought of a self-review, but once the station started off with the exercise we came to know about the things that we were lacking at and how we could improve on it,” he said. “The peer review exercise was very helpful for our station.”

The successful completion of the exercise by most of the stations made it a must to continue the exercise with the remaining Community Radio Stations. A Peer Review Workshop will be planned to be held by December with the same 30 stations to discuss the suggestions and reflections they derived from the self assessment and whether they could implement it from June onwards.

As the participants huddled together in New Delhi, it proffered to experts and decision-makers the challenges and the financial predicaments of the various Community Radio Stations. The problems were discussed.

But was there a solution at hand?

Short of a magic wand, it was a resolute one – no Community Radio Station would be allowed to close for a dearth of resources.

“This is the biggest take-away of the day”, said Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, “We know what the challenges are and how different Community Radio Stations have overcome these challenges. But now, we have found a renewed confidence and it is best reflected in this resolution.”

Author: CRFC