Prior to 2010, it was rare to discover local news in a newspaper in most areas outside of the Kathmandu valley. A member of our team who was in Dhangadi on business requested a local newspaper while getting a cup of tea from a nearby kiosk. We were quite astonished to find out that there was no local newspaper for the day because of a localized power outage that had made local media outlets difficult to receive news from Kathmandu’s national media. It was common practice back then to produce news pieces pretending to be a local publication while actually copying the majority of them from Kathmandu’s major publications. This scenario had us wondering why someone would want to read news about a place or a topic that isn’t actually relevant to them, preferring to be informed about events and issues in their own area.
We worked with five distinct community organizations from Dhangadi, Palpa, Butwal, Parsa, and Biratnagar to encourage local media outlets to produce their own material based on their surroundings. Before media outlets were persuaded and joined this process of promoting local materials in local media, it required some convincing. More local news and articles were the first step on the journey, which then led to in-depth reports, feature pieces, and finally a whole media management strategy. The Palpa Development Center (PDC), a leading example of an organization who worked tirelessly with media outlets through this process since 2012, went from being a loose-knit group of young people working for anyone to a provincial think tank that actively engages in working to support the quality of journalism and addressing policy issues in Lumbini province. A wise decision that not only gave the readers a sense of ownership but also helped the media outlets remain viable was to ask local media outlets to provide local content for their outlets.
Through outreach, education, and advocacy, PDC has grown from working with Butwal and Palpa to now collaborating with 39 media outlets and 44 journalists from 12 districts in an effort to foster a watchful civil society. They are in charge of the “NitiPatro” (Policy Calendar) media platform, which tracks budgeting processes, legislative processes, and government policies and initiatives in addition to gathering the most data on media policies. This platform serves as a feeder to help legislators, the media, and decision-makers make educated judgments.
Agility: The early efforts of PDC to promote their community of Palpa were sporadic because they were mostly voluntary initiatives. They were able to work toward raising the standard of the local media after receiving a small funding from the Open Society Foundations in 2011 to assist the promotion of numerous viewpoints through a variety of media in Palpa and Rupandehi, two crucial districts in the Lumbini province. As Nepal transitioned to federalism in 2017, many people experienced a sense of hope and optimism after more than ten years of political turbulence. The initiative, which had originally only covered two districts, now encompasses twelve. Most individuals, however, couldn’t understand what that meant for how one’s daily lives would go about. PDC has proven its capacity to continuously reinvent itself and adapt to a dynamic, unpredictably changing environment. During the two decades when Nepal struggled to organize local elections and the majority of them were operating in isolation, PDC worked with civil society organizations across the nation to urge for frequent local elections. This initiative is a perfect example of the ability to see and seize opportunities quickly. PDC has established a solid reputation for tackling significant political, media, and social concerns.
Teamwork: The operations of this organization involve more than just the staff. All members can participate in brainstorming sessions, idea discussions, and use the organization’s knowledge and experience, which is why PDC has been successful in promoting collaboration and open communication. Although the team’s working method establishes no constraints and allows each member to contribute unique ideas, the organizational structure on paper creates a hierarchy. It is obvious that the team members are driven and committed to the company as a result. The excellent relationships that PDC has developed with its partners, lawmakers, journalists, media outlets, and civic organizations provide as evidence that this extends beyond of their staff. When support is required for their work with the Nitipatro and policy review, PDC hasn’t shied away from contacting partners like the Center for Media Research-Nepal, a media think tank with offices in Kathmandu. A good example of this collaboration is their research and analysis work on local budget and provincial policy and programs, found on their website. These papers have been well-used as evidences by journalists and parliamentarians to articulate their views.
Commitment: The success of PDC was largely reliant on Kiran Kaushal, the program coordinator, who was dedicated to the causes they supported and steadfast in their dedication to their community. They began as a neighborhood group with a focus on enhancing the skills of journalists through content evaluation, workshops, and fellowship models. However, Kiran’s aspirations for this group grew as Nepal’s political landscape changed. As a result, PDC broadened the scope of its operations to cover all 12 districts in the province of Lumbini, as well as to include journalists, lawmakers, professional groups, and non-governmental organizations. When promoting regional and national concerns like free and fair elections, the constitution-making process, and progressive policies that support freedom of expression and associations, they have established broader coalitions and consortiums and joined them. Although it is obvious that this does not ensure an organization’s success, the willingness to urge coworkers, team members, and allies to demonstrate the same level of dedication is nonetheless important.
One of the keys to PDC’s growth is their emphasis on fostering relationship with the people they work, including the elected officials, engaging with their community representatives, and the organization’s agility to reinvent itself and adjust to trends. Their emphasis on collaboration has also given them the ability to innovate more quickly, spot errors early, and develop superior solutions to problems. The accomplishments of PDC show how strong a dedication to a community can be, as well as how critical it is to be instrumental in amplifying the voice of civil society at the policy level. They also show that an organization’s size is less important than the extent of its activities. PDC is an example of how grassroots groups may actually make a difference in some of the most urgent policy concerns by organizing civil society organizations to forge connections and engage in advocacy.