Pop Culture With A Purpose! Using Edutainment Media For Social Change
This Oxfam Novib document discusses basic concepts and strategies in education-entertainment (E-E or edutainment), including: using edutainment to build and strengthen social movements; the common challenges of planning and evaluating edutainment; and the main theories supporting its practices and strategies. The author uses several examples of projects, including: Breakthrough in India, Soul City and Soul Buddyz in South Africa, and Sexto Sentido from Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua.
Arvind Singhal, Ph.D.
University of Texas at El Paso (Singhal), Ohio University (Lacayo)
December 1, 2008
As stated by the authors, "Entertainment has been used for educational purposes for centuries. There is a well-documented history of storytelling traditions that transfer cultural values from one generation to the next. But over the past decade the theoretical development and the strategic dimensions of edutainment as a communication strategy in development work have grown significantly....Influenced by diffusion of innovation theory, social marketing principles and social learning theory, the use of entertainment formats to promote change in attitudes and behaviors has spread quickly in the last few decades." Miguel Sabido, creator of the Sabido method, is cited as one of the early pioneers who fashioned the building blocks for the use of fictional genres in television and radio for social change today. The document takes its definition from Thomas Tufte: "Edutainment is the use of entertainment as a communicative practice crafted to strategically communicate about development issues in a manner and with a purpose that can range from the more narrowly defined social marketing of individual behavior to the liberating and citizen-driven articulation of social change."
The document lists the following as connected to the effectiveness of this kind of entertainment:
- Entertainment is taking up more and more of people's daily time.
- Use of the powerful and engaging effect of drama and storytelling is relevant to convey complex messages and engage people in complex, long-term processes based on the serial nature of programming to enhance audience popularity, emotional identification and role modelling, complex and layered treatment of multiple themes, and long -term exposure to themes.
- The length of engagement leads to more debate and dialogue around various aspects of themes leading to deeper engagement and stronger possibilities of change. As stated here, "...for social change to occur, oppressive relationships need to be identified, then deconstructed, and then reconstructed."
The stories of the processes for creating The Soul Buddyz Club programme, Breakthrough’s Is This Justice? - India campaign, as well as the more recent Breakthrough ICED effort, and Puntos de Encuentro's TV series Sexto Sentido (Sixth Sense) and the accompanying social change communication strategy, Somos Diferentes Somos Iguales (SDSI), are detailed by the organisations that created them. Among the lessons learned by these organisations include lessons on linking to social change movements. For example, Puntos de Encuentro needed to develop strategies to bridge generational differences in how women perceive the role of a women's movement in both reducing violence against women and in increasing opportunities for women. They had to pay attention to building a movement that included large and small organisations linked by the issues brought to society through an edutainment series. They had to overcome dissension in the movement caused when their organisation received resources and recognition for creating the series, while other organisations were lacking resources. For the Breakthrough organisation, after bringing attention to violence against women in India through an advertising campaign, a music video, and capacity building of youth, senior field workers, and trainers to address gender-based discrimination, sexuality, and HIV/ AIDS, Breakthrough took on a different campaign in the United States, based on the issue of immigrant deportation, presented in its video game “I Can End Deportation" (ICED). Observing that gaming, social networking, and Web 2.0 platforms were changing the way in which some audiences were communicating, Breakthrough developed a multi-media campaign with the game, including benchmarks and indicators to inform their work. Hence, they have the tools to measure how often it is downloaded and to survey players in a quantitative and qualitative evaluation on increases in knowledge on the topic and changes in attitude. They indicate that as an organisation, they have benefited from the differences in approach and strategies that their two-country transnational identity has generated.
The document describes theories and their application to edutainment development. The theories include: Social Marketing, Diffusion of Innovation, Spiral of Silence Theory, Individual Differences Theory, Elaboration Likelihood Model and Reception Theory, The Health Belief Model, Social Learning Theory, and Stages of Change Theory. Thomas Tufte’s three generations of E-E are charted (on page 41).
Some working principles on edutainment selected from Puntos de Encuentro include:
- Critique the status quo and present alternatives
- Use language that is understandable to everyone
- Take on controversial issues and build bridges
- Create and sustain one's own mass media outlets
- Use engaging and attractive materials and formats
- Involve organisations and audiences in content creation and use.
In addition, Puntos suggests that people respond to different things in different moments, and that change occurs as a result of multiple catalysts working simultaneously, on different levels and over time. Puntos’ strategies combine mass media with interpersonal interchange, networking, and community mobilisation to effect both individual and social change. Media used in their projects include leaflets, radio, youth maps, a DVD methodology pack, national and cable TV, cast visits and appearances, joint social actions with a network of alliances, monitoring and evaluation, and advice and guidance from service providers, including 60 centres on sexual violence and HIV/AIDS counselling and sexual and reproductive health.
This document was published with an accompanying DVD sampling the edutainment programmes discussed, among others.
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Arvind Singhal, Ph.D.
Samuel Shirley and Edna Holt Marston Endowed Professor and Director of Research and Outreach
Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies
Department of Communication University of Texas
El Paso Texas
Tel: 915 747 6286
Fax: 915 747 5236
Arvind Singhal website