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Soap Operas

Lights, camera, action on entertainment education!

Anushka Thewarapperuma's picture

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Behavior change campaigns are all around us. They remind us to get our flu shots; warn us that food and drinks are not allowed when using public transportation; even prompt us to turn off the lights when we leave a room. They invoke socially acceptable norms and indirectly guide us towards positive behavior change. The advent of an assortment of new technologies and mass media outlets enables us to spread last-mile awareness on handwashing, safe sex, and gender-based violence, to name just a few.

Indeed, we in development, and governments that we work with, invest millions of dollars in behavior campaigns. However, many of these campaigns are unconvincing, lack inspiring narratives, and are communicated through outmoded and uninteresting outlets such as billboards and leaflets. Research shows that traditional mass media interventions are often ineffective in promoting behavior change, especially in the long run (Grilli et al 2002, Vidanapathirana et al 2005).
Entertainment Education

How Soap Operas and Cable TV Promote Women’s Rights and Family Planning

Duncan Green's picture

Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI provides an absolute gold mine of a crib sheet on this in the shape of Drivers of Change in Gender norms: An annotated bibliography, by Rachel Marcus and Ella Page with Rebecca Calder and Catriona Foley.

Here’s one of the excerpts that caught my eye:

Jensen, R. and Oster, E. (2007) ‘The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India’. Working Paper 13305. Cambridge, MA: NBER

Albert Einstein and Brad Pitt Walk Into a Bar…

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Another Sunday evening recently found me fuming through another science infotainment show as they abound these days on not-so commercial broadcasts. It made me think about how important science education is in development and how easy it is to do it wrong. Popular science education is essential, and not only in development. Climate change is one of the most obvious issues where people need to understand what’s going on and need to understand it fast. Health issues are another area where a better understanding of scientific principles can contribute to behavior change that could promote better public health. What I tend to see around, however, is not as useful as the producers may think.