Co-design workshops and frequency analysis for IQFM

IQhayiya community radio station, also known as IQFM, is a community radio based in Samora Machel, on the outskirts of Cape Town.  IQFM has been operating for a few years as a community radio. It started by a core group of highly motivated young people, and grew from strenght to strenght. It has a solid audience base in the area of Samora Machel, yet, being a grassroot organisation, it had to face important challenges. The first challenge required IQFM team to navigate through the process of obtaining a broadcasting license; the second challenge involved ensuring that the leadership group hones their management skills. Obtaining a broadcasting license means, in fact, entering into a professional environment that requires solid management and organizative competencies to ensure the sound running of the venture.

Helping the youth of Samora Machel in pursuing their dream of having a fully fledged, self reliant, and vibrant radio station within their community is one of Rainbow Media’s core projects. This year we decided to focus on two aspects: developing the capacities of the leadership team – through co-design workshops and a survey -, and supporting the last few steps of the process of obtaining the broadcasting license.

Since our goal is the empowerment of a community organisation, we decided to use a participatory design methodology and to run co-design workshops to explore which business model option would be the best for IQFM, and how to ensure that the community stays involved and committed to the radio station. Every time that a solution emerged, it was analysed by means of questions such as “How will this help our radio station, our community, or individuals within the community? Will this project possibly have a positive impact in other areas?” and so on.

The first workshop focussed on the business model, through questions such as: “is IQFM a social enterprise?” “Would it be useful to create a foundation to operate parallel to the radio station?”. Subsequently, the group focussed on the exploration, analysis and discussion of various business models, to identify what would be the best one of IQFM, and looking at aspects such as finances, staff management, revenue generation, location, etc. This resulted in a description of which departments are in charge of particular aspects, and what tools they would be using to ensure delivery of the expected outcomes. A draft of projected budget was designed, to simulate a reasonable funding of IQFM vision.

The second workshop focussed on the development of a strategy for IQFM to widen the community involvement in the radio station, to keep the audience and stakeholders engaged, and to attract individuals in the daily activities. One of the outcomes of the workshop was a list the resources (manpower, tools, and other resources) needed to achieve IQFM vision, including the relevant project milestones, describing project challenges or unexpected setbacks (such as insufficient resources, unexpected obstacles, technical failures, or other delays), and identifying possible solutions to remedy the project challenges.

We also made use of a self-assessment toolkit, with the intent to familiarise the radio leadership team with methodologies that they could apply autonomously to different issues in the future.

We supported IQFM in the process of seeking a spectrum license to operate an FM transmitter at its premises. The main obstacle encountered is that there is a scarcity of available FM frequencies in the Cape Town area. For this reason, a spectrum analysis was completed to find a suitable frequency that could be used to achieve the coverage of interest for IQFM: the community of Samora Machel and surrounding areas in Philippi, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. Fieldwork was completed in May and June 2017. The FM band was scanned using a P175 FM Broadcast Analyser in combination with BandScan analysis software, to establish if gaps existed in the spectrum that could be used by IQFM. Interference concerns have been considered and a frequency was identified as a suitable frequency for use by the station. Following reception of the technical report, IQFM lodged a request with the relevant authority to obtain a radio broadcast service license and an Electronic Communications Network Service license. This would allow the station to own and operate their own transmitter.

Earlier in the year IQFM went through a challenging period, determined by being forced to suspend broadcasting while waiting to lodge the application for a license. Without the opportunity of a shared daily practice, the leadership group was at first disoriented. The workshops we run offered an important opportunity to re-direct focus on the vision they have for the radio station, and to use this more quiet time to identify their business model as well as concrete actions that they want to take to push the radio station forward, and to gain further training at individual level, to better serve their community. The time-frame involved in the licensing process has been a major source of frustration, and we are delighted to see that, following the release of the technical report, things were set in motion again.