The Gong-Gong Beater: An Indigenous Information Sharing Medium for Sustaining the Influence of Community Networks 

The Gong-Gong Beater: An Indigenous Information Sharing Medium for Sustaining the Influence of Community Networks 

Who is a Gong-Gong Beater?

In traditional Ghanaian society, the gong-gong beater is characterized as the official communication and information manager within a chieftaincy structure. This person is often unassuming, are not considered a part of the elite, and could easily be disregarded. However, when he must relay a message from the Chiefdom or the elders of the community to the citizens, he takes center stage, leaving the community spellbound. As soon as the sound of the gong-gong is heard, the attention of the whole community is drawn to this sound and the message it carries. All activities within the community come to a halt and most members focus their attention on the gong-gong beater. In this way, the gong-gong beater becomes the major source of information for the elite and underserved populations. For example, in the Tolon District of Ghana, the gong-gong beaters are known for leveraging storytelling, drumming, and singing to disseminate important information to rural communities in a language the local people understand while also inculcating good ethical and moral values to the next generation. 

What Does a Gong-Gong Beater Do?

Within a typical traditional setting in Ghana, a gong-gong beater has four functions. 

  • Acts as the recognized mouthpiece for a community: The gong-gong beater’s sounds, messages, and communication style is well known by the community. He has built a reputation for relaying information to different groups in the community. This has made him the official “voice” for information dissemination.  
  • Communicates reliable information in a timely and appropriate manner: The gong-gong beater is skilled in distilling and summarizing information for the specific target audience. He is aware of the importance of communicating reliable information in a manner that appeals to diverse audiences within the appropriate period and space. 
  • Interfaces between members of the community and the leadership: Due to his unique position, the gong-gong beater is a legitimate interface between the community and its members, often acting as a trusted communication channel.
  • Creates opportunities for agenda setting within a community: The position of the gong-gong beater enables him to create spaces for community citizens to prioritize specific issues that need solutions and further engagement. 
  • Acts as a conduit for the clarification of messaging: Acting as the “information bureau,” the gong-gong beater becomes the first point of call for answering queries and calls for clarification from the target audience and members of the community.

What are the Traits of a Gong-Gong Beater?

A gong-gong beater has several characteristics. This is a person who is a trusted source of information based on evidence and a verifiable track record.  He is a respected and revered messenger within a community. He is also recognized for his information-sharing role within a community and can communicate diverse messages to different audiences. He also appreciates that the right information communicated in a timely manner enhances the viability and legitimacy of community networks.

How to Become a Gong-Gong Beater?

As a network weaver, to become a gong-gong beater within your community, you will need to gather experience and expertise  engaging with and advocating for networks within communities. A gong-gong beater should be an active and recognized member of a community and must have a track record of providing spaces for expression, thought, and shared learning.  

Why Community Networks Need Gong-Gong Beaters

Accurate and timely information is fuel for sustaining community networks because in communities, the messenger is as important as the message. Often, information sharing is also a mobilizing tool used to respond to issues of importance for community networks therefore, an effective mechanism for information sharing enhances opportunities for members to contribute and be recognized. This also helps community networks promote mindset shifts and sustained social change 

Call To Action: Unleash Your Inner Gong-Gong Beater 

Community networks need more gong-gong beaters in these turbulent and uncertain times. As a civic leader and network weaver, you have the responsibility to unleash your inner gong-gong beater.  A movement of gong-gong-beater communities will help community networks thrive as they feed on accurate, timely, and resourceful information. In addition, community networks also thrive on the capacity and capability of members to mobilize and strengthen responsiveness to issues and needs. Therefore, the survival, resilience, and buoyancy of community networks will depend on the ability of its members to beat the gong-gong in ways that shift mindsets, nurture co-existence and advance sustained social change within our communities.

Charles Kojo Vandyk is a dynamic development practitioner and thought leader who is who is driving transformative change within civil society. As a Founding Member of the prestigious International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), spearheaded by the renowned Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Charles is at the forefront of transforming citizen participation worldwide. With positions as a Trustee of INTRAC and an Advisory Board Member of Disrupt Development, he is shaping the future from Oxford to Amsterdam. Charles’s remarkable contributions continue as a Core Team Member of the game-changing Reimagining INGOs (RINGO) initiative and as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Recognised by the Development Studies Association, Charles is also a certified Change the Game Academy Master Trainer and an IFC-Learning and Performance Institute Trainer. 

Prepare to be inspired by Charles as he paves the way for a more resilient, sustainable, and empowered civil society

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