Communication for Social Change and Cultural Efficiency

By Javier Toca Lahuerta.

This article is an extract from the master’s thesis “El Decrecimiento desde la Comunicación para el Cambio Social: en Busca de un Enfoque Comunicativo Alternativo” [Degrowth from the perspective of Communication for Social Change: In Search of an Alternative Communicative Approach] carried out within the master’s degree in International Peace, Conflict and Development Studies at the Universitat Jaume I. I considered necessary to tackle –within the limitations of the analysis in question– the communicative dimension of degrowth, which has been scarcely analyzed to date.

Therefore, due to format limitations, this blogspot is structured with a short introduction to Communication for Social Change and a broader summary of the problems and alternatives presented. You are invited to review the full document at the repository of the Universitat Jaume I.

Communication for Social Change or CSC, which has an approximately clear origin in the 1990s (Gumucio-Dragon 2011) and is mainly influenced by Freire’s dialogue based on five basic principles such as humility, empathy, love, hope and dialogue. Key authors argue that the aim of Communication for Social Change is to achieve social justice and the transformation of violences (Nos-Aldás and Farné 2020).

In this context, the concept of “cultural effectiveness” is developed as a reformulation of communication effectiveness from the effects of cultural violence, in order to broaden the meaning of this concept and to establish moral sensitivity, communicative sincerity and cultural resonance as the axis of effectiveness (Nos-Aldás and Farné 2020).

Problems and Alternatives

Regarding the analysis of the approach and communication strategies of degrowth, at first glance, the division of opinions both within the degrowth movement and at the academic level regarding both the term and the construction of the message could be observed.

Firstly, the analysis of the problematic of the term sheds light on this discussion, as there are those who are in favour of the current term, because it operates as a missile term breaking cognitive barriers (Drews and Antal 2016), and those who advocate for another term, as it generates a rejection that can negatively affect mobilisation in the long term. In this line, Communication for Social Change proposes two possible paths, a mixed path that uses one or the other term in different stages to favour positive mobilisation and also the change of paradigm or the submission to analysis and co-creation from the grassroots of the movements and the citizenry of a potentially integrating term at the present time.

On the other hand, regarding the degrowth message, once the results of the analysis Degrowth or Not Degrowth: The Importance of Message Frames for Characterising the New Economy (Tomaselli, Kozak, Gifford, Sheppard 2021) in the effect of framing on the Canadian population were analyzed, it could be observed that there are also divided opinions in relation to the design of the message. In this case, there are two possible paths, to create a message based on a negative framing centered on losses, or to have a positive framing centered on hope. Thus, the choice was made, as before, between two possibilities, or a mixture of both framings. Firstly, the negative one, so that it has an impact and mobilises in the short term, to move on to the framing of hope and generate a mobilisation in the medium and long term. The other way is to design the message through the idea of the Pluriverse (Kothari, Salleh, Escobar, Demaria and Acosta 2019) centered on eco-social narratives and utopias, so that it is the denied and silenced voices who, collectively, can co-create these messages.

As for the dissemination of the message of degrowth, which, although it does not seem to be the subject of discussion by the grassroots and academia, it would be negligent to overlook the analysis of such a crucial area from a communicative perspective. A complex reality presents itself in which degrowth is scarcely represented in the hegemonic media and on digital platforms, with only a few collectives covering the issue, albeit from a basically informationalist and not very conversationalist approach. A reformulation of the CSC dissemination strategy is therefore necessary, with a series of elementary techniques in mind, such as the implementation of an approach focused on the promotion of engagement, as well as the co-creation of content with the target audience in order to generate a space for conversation beyond the concept of engagement.

The last point presents a transgressive path to all the above-mentioned alternatives, if opting not only for reformulation but, rather, for change and transformation. Thus, different eco-social concepts are presented that show ethical alternatives to a belief system rooted in Western modernity to explain the need for what in this research is developed as a pluriverse of narratives. This concept, which is sheltered under the umbrella of the more

In conclusion, it is necessary not only to suggest a reformulation of communication strategies in order to broaden the objective scope, but rather to redesign these communicative actions from the perspective of cultural effectiveness, the pluriverse and utopias in order to promote the identification of the population with degrowth values.

Finally, in order to give continuity to this work, it would be necessary to address the issue of the pluriverse of narratives and eco-social utopias as innovative tools that favour the communication of the values and messages of eco-social movements, also from different spheres such as the audiovisual or other physical supports such as comics, tales or fables.

Javier Toca Lahuerta, BSc of Audiovisual Communication and M.A. of International Peace, Conflict and Development Studies. Researcher on degrowth, demilitarization and communication for peace and social change and activist of the Banca Armada Campaign. He collaborates with various NGO entities on different projects. Including the communication project for peace and demilitarization “(S)Alto el Fuego!”, a collaboration on Twitch and YT of the research institute for peace “Centre Delàs” with the newspaper “El Salto”. On the other hand, in the professional sphere, he has developed actions to raise awareness and educate for peace.

The opinions expressed in the text do not necessarily reflect those of R&D, but are those of the author.


Drews, Stephan y Miklós Antal. 2016. «Degrowth: ¿A “missile word” that backfires?». Ecological Economics,126: 182-187.

Gumucio-Dragon, Alfonso. 2011. «Comunicación para el cambio social: clave del desarrollo participativo». En Comunicación, desarrollo y cambio social, ed. José Miguel Pereira y Amparo Cadavid. Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

Kothari, Ashish, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria y Alberto Acosta. 2019. Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary. Nueva Delhi: Tulika Books.

Nos-Aldás, Eloísa y Alessandra Farné. 2020. «Comunicación Transformadora de cambio social: epistemologías performativas y eficacia cultural». Convergencia: Revista de ciencias sociales, 27(3): 1-26.

Tomaselli, Maria Fernanda, Rober Kozak, Robert Gifford y Stephen R.J Sheppard. 2021. «Degrowth or Not Degrowth: The Importance of Message Frames for Characterizing the New Economy». Ecological Economics, 183: 1-13.