Communication in International Development: Doing Good or Looking Good?, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Communication in International Development

Doing Good or Looking Good?, 1st Edition

Edited by Florencia Enghel, Jessica Noske-Turner


182 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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International development stakeholders harness communication with two broad purposes: to do good, via communication for development and media assistance, and to communicate do-gooding, via public relations and information. This book unpacks various ways in which different efforts to do good are combined with attempts to look good, be it in the eyes of donor constituencies at large, or among more specific audiences, such as journalists or intra-agency decision-makers.

Development communication studies have tended to focus primarily on interventions aimed at doing good among recipients, at the expense of examining the extent to which promotion and reputation management are elements of those practices. This book establishes the importance of interrogating the tensions generated by overlapping uses of communication to do good and to look good within international development cooperation.

The book is a critical text for students and scholars in the areas of development communication and international development and will also appeal to practitioners working in international aid who are directly affected by the challenges of communicating for and about development.


"This fine volume thoughtfully addresses the provocative and important question of its title. The well-focused essays by development scholars and scholar-practitioners from a number of countries challenge those involved in development communication to think carefully not just about what they are doing but also about why they are doing it."Nancy Morris, Temple University, USA

"Communication in International Development: Doing Good or Looking Good? provides a well-illustrated documentation of the communication of international development practices and ideas. As being seen to ‘do good’ with the requisite branding, photo-ops and celebrity endorsements becomes central to the mandate of humanitarian and development organizations, this book helps us to understand how ‘looking good’ is produced, performed and who is affected by it."Lisa Ann Richey, Roskilde University, Denmark

"Delving into the complex and conflictual world of communication in international development, this important contribution reveals the imperatives and motivations of agencies caught between the desire to ‘do good’ but who end up investing in ‘looking good’ and the gaps between ideological promise and institutional performance. A must read."Pradip Thomas, University of Queensland, Australia

"This book aptly interrogates the relationship between the ‘walk’ and ‘talk’ of communication and development practices through a range of case studies. The authors balance concerns about the increasing focus of development actors on looking good rather than doing good with empirical material to illuminate the stakes for democracy."Eleftheria Lekakis, University of Sussex, UK

"What does it mean to claim to ‘do good’ with development assistance resources? Do the requirements of funding agencies mean that whatever is done, it must be made to ‘look good’ to sustain a future flow of funds? What tensions does the donor-recipient relationship give rise to and how are they managed in practice? This outstanding collection of papers probes for answers. It reveals how international development stakeholders frame problems and solutions, how asymmetric power relationships work themselves out, and how media and communication strategies are implicated. The complexity of the challenges in the ‘media and communication for development’ arena are highlighted, providing an essential critique of prevailing practice. Students, scholars and practitioners seeking to change the world in a just, ethical and equitable way must read this book."Robin Mansell, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

"Does looking good outweigh doing good in international development cooperation? In what ways do conceptions of justice define what actual "improvement" should involve in development efforts? These hard questions lie at the core of the thrilling volume Enghel and Noske-Turner put together. The editors convened an excellent group of international scholars who wrote well-researched chapters constituting the two parts - and an epilogue - in order to tackle the ambiguities and challenges that mark development communication today and can generate further divides. Enghel and Noske-Turner’s scrutiny of "justice" as an addition to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a welcome and timely intervention. Communication in International Development is a must-read volume for any scholar and practitioner interested not only in development communication, but communication at large." Miyase Christensen, Stockholm University, Sweden

"Grounded in a solid conceptual framing by the editors, this book delivers thought-provoking contributions that convincingly overcome some of the silo-thinking and tension in discussions about the different roles of communication in international development cooperation. An innovative, ambitious and critical reflection that moves the field forward!"Thomas Tufte, University of Leicester, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction: Communication in international development: towards theorizing across hybrid practices Florencia Enghel & Jessica Noske-Turner Part 1 "For" and "about": Interrogating practices across domains 1. A ‘success story’ unpacked: doing good and communicating do-gooding in The Videoletters Project Florencia Enghel 2. 'Doing good’ and ‘looking good’ in global humanitarian reporting: Is philanthro-journalism good news? Martin Scott, Kate Wright, Mel Bunce 3. Shifting development discourses in public and in private: The case of the Scotland-Malawi partnership Ben Wilson 4. Communication about development and the challenge of doing well: Donor branding in the West Bank Karin Wilkins Part 2 What next? Rethinking conventional approaches 5. Becoming visible: an institutional histories approach to understanding practices and tensions in communication for development Jessica Noske-Turner, Jo Tacchi, Vinod Pavarala 6. For celebrity communication about development to do good: Reframing purpose and discourses Lauren Kogen 7. Communication and evaluation: Can a decision-making hybrid reframe an age-old dichotomy? Ricardo Ramirez & Wendy Quarry 8. Communicating development results in an emerging "post-aid" era Peter da Costa Epilogue: What’s bad about "looking good"? Can it be done better?Silvio Waisbord

About the Editors

Florencia Enghel is a Senior Lecturer Fellow at the School of Education and Communication, Jönköping University, Sweden.

Jessica Noske-Turner is a Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK.

About the Series

Rethinking Development

Rethinking Development offers accessible and thought-provoking overviews of contemporary topics in international development and aid. Providing original empirical and analytical insights, the books in this series push thinking in new directions by challenging current conceptualizations and developing new ones.  

This is a dynamic and inspiring series for all those engaged with today’s debates surrounding development issues, whether they be students, scholars, policy makers and practitioners internationally. These interdisciplinary books provide an invaluable resource for discussion in advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in development studies as well as in anthropology, economics, politics, geography, media studies and sociology.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd ([email protected]).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries