So why do we at CARE (the Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation) do what we do?
The culture-centered approach (CCA) outlines a conceptual framework for communication for social change, developing empirically grounded tenets that map out key concepts of communication within the broader ambits of social change.
As a meta-theoretical framework for communication for social change, the CCA explores the ways in which culture, structure, and agency constitute spaces for meaning making and sites of participation for communities at the margins of social systems.
Social change in the context of marginalization specifically attends to the co-creation of communication infrastructures, communication tools, and communicative spaces where the voices at the margins of societies are heard.
From the question of systematic erasure of subaltern subjectivity, the CCA theoretically grapples with the work of communicative processes in disrupting these erasures, the role of communication in struggles for voices to be heard, and the array of communication strategies that open up possibilities for transforming structures.
In answering the questions, "What communication strategies work in challenging erasures?" "What are the communicative infrastructures that enable subaltern voices to be heard?" the CCA is embedded within a contingent, impure, and dynamic site of communicative practice. The theory of practice emerges from the practice itself. In this sense, the culture-centered scholar has to do the work of social change communication to tease out the key lessons of social change communication.
To observe the social change communication processes from a distance is unlikely to generate valid and reliable concepts because the very nature of social change communication involves nuances and practices that are usually invisible to an external observer. For instance, while a removed external observer, sitting in her ivory tower, might claim that "there is no possibility for dialectical articulations in Singapore," an immersed reading of social change communication might point to very different lessons regarding the array of communicative strategies that are put into work everyday by different actors.
As an empirically grounded meta-theory, the CCA is by nature community immersed. The tenets of social change emerge through the collaborative work of academics with communities at the margins, and also with a range of other actors including state agencies, activists, and civil society organizations. The nature of these relationships, however, are fundamentally grounded in the challenge of "how to build communicative infrastructures for listening to the voices of the margins."
The theory of communication for social change, grounded in cultural articulations and constituted in iterative relationships with structures, emerges through the work of "doing" communication for social change. In this sense, the doing of communication for social change is deeply intertwined with the concepts that are distilled out, and mapped into the meta-theory of social change communication.