Traditional media programming, be they stories from the news media or fictional soap-operas, frequently1 stress and exploit conflict for its entertainment value. While such an approach may attract more viewers and thus increase profit, which is the goal of the broadcaster, it most certainly has a negative impact on issues of conflict and peace. Such an approach, moreover, “does not reflect what most people have learned in their individual lives: namely, successful relationships—in families, communities, and businesses—are usually based on finding ways of working together, to the mutual benefit of everyone involved.”2 In the pursuit of such inclusive relationships, modeling positive behavior and altering societal discourse is essential.
Here at Search for Common Ground, we have been utilizing the media in our programming since the founding of the organization in 1982. SFCG’s media work helps open space in civil society where important issues can be aired in ways that amplify the needs of the disaffected while providing the powerful with a non-confrontational mechanism for listening. Employing a soft-power approach, such programs portray alternative models, show how political and social differences can be peacefully resolved, demonstrate how governmental institutions can function more effectively, and focus attention on such subjects as accountability and responsiveness. Underpinning all SFCG media programming, including drama, is the struggle to overcome differences.
Thus enormous potential exists for media, in all its multifaceted forms ranging from episodic drama to reality television and news media, to be utilized as a tool for conflict transformation—and this potential is still growing. “A reliable, diverse and independent media has [significant] potential for contributing to conflict resolution. It functions as a channel of communication that counteracts misperceptions and negative stereotypes between people. It frames and analyses the conflict, identifies the interests, defuses mistrust, provides safe emotional outlets and more.”3 The mixture of skills, knowledge, analysis and aesthetic entertainment is a potent approach to social change.
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But we also know that media alone will not bring about the desired changes in knowledge, attitude, behavior and perceptions. Media frequently ‘scratches the surface’ in providing a glimpse into an alternative worldview or values, and without cleverly designed supplemental activities whatever change has been brought about through the media is not likely to be sustainable or achieve the impact that was desired in project design.
Outreach for any media activity is absolutely crucial, as any media product is no magic bullet. The most well-crafted stories and messages have limitations. Experience has shown us that we need to reiterate and strengthen the messages from the media through a number of outreach activities to reinforce the messages of the show through a variety of channels, and also to further assist in reaching populations in remote areas.
Such activities have included:
Just as in any peacebuilding project, you will want to conduct thorough conflict and context analyses as part of the design stage for your intervention.
In addition, you can also analyse the media-scape: what are the existing strengths and weaknesses of the existing media sector, who participates (owns, watches, contributes, etc.), intended audiences for particular media, media content, financing, professionalization, and regulation. The World Bank’s Data Catalogue as well as the UNDP Human Development Index contain useful data for identifying the most appropriate media for delivering your message—and can be useful in identifying outreach and supplemental activities as well!
Keep in mind that with the rapid spread of technologies through globalization, radio may no longer be the most common or popular form of media in developing countries. More and more frequently, television is overtaken radio as the most common media consumed by society.
Jonathan White manages the Learning Portal for DM&E for Peacebuilding at Search for Common Ground. Views expressed herein do not represent SFCG, the Learning Portal or its partners or affiliates.
I feel using the different forms of media can greatly assist in interventions and add a new component to existing projects and programs. I think this article provides a great introduction to different forms and many of pros/cons to using typse of media in intervention. Beyond the review of this process it is great to see organizations engaging in using media to assist in development and conflict resolution.
Several organizations come to mind that effectively use different forms of media to train, explain, and promote postive change. Ba Futuru on Timor Leste has produced shorts involving Feto Fantastiku, a Timorese superhero who teaches conflict resolution skills as well as informational videos explaining the work of the organization. One of the videos can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTjQJv-I8pg. Also, the Casa de Produção Audiovisual (a Society of Jesus program) is also producing a variety of films in Timor Leste focusing on nation building, education, and advocacy for local television. The CPA engages in community screenings of many of their films and of other organizations in areas that might not have tv access. There are groups like Theatres without Borders and the Chiapas Media Project that engage in other alternate form of media intervention. It would be interesting to see how effective each of these programs is in helping to strengthen capacity and generate change. Beyond numbers, what can we learn from these organizations to promote, design, or incorporate more media-based interventions?
Thanks for your response! Of special interest to you will be "The Team", a special program of Search for Common Ground. "The Team" was aired recently in Yemen as part of a massive peacebuilding campaign. According to a recent evaluation, the program was impactful, particularly for youth. Majority of the Yemeni youth who watche the show absorbed its message of peace and cooperation, and some even indicated that it concretely changed the way they thought about conflict resolution. An older evaluation of "The Team" in Morocco had similar findings. You can find the full evaluation here: http://dmeforpeace.omnidev3.com/learn/team-morocco-baseline-and-final-evaluation-report.
What however, also emerges from these evaluation is the importance of outreach, and the choice of medium. You may develop and implement a fantastic media-based intervention but what is really the larger impact if you are not reaching your target audience, particularly given the fact that media-based interventions are intended to reach large numbers of people.
I agree, that using different forms of media can be very helpful in peace building efforts. I think that Kekenya Ntaiya’s work is a good example of how different forms of media can be used to enhance existing projects. Kekenya returned to Enoosean, a small village in Kenya, where she grew up, and started the first primary school for girls in her village. Last spring, I saw a video of Kekenya speaking at the TED conferences in once of my classes. Had the professor not showed the class that video I do not many of us would have known about the work that Kekenya was doing. This fall Kekenya has been nominated for CNN’s hero of the year. I saw a commercial on CNN that explained Kekenya’s work and an easily accessible webpage with videos, statistics and a clearly marked tab that allows viewers to get involved or help the cause. I think that the exposure that Kekenya gets from CNN could help her reach a much larger audience. Do you think that the media exposure will help Kekenya’s work in any ways other than fundraising? How do you think that she could utilize the media in order to spread awareness about her work in Kenya?
I've become increasingly interested in the role media plays in conflict, as either a mitigator or instigator. You aptly note that media frequently 'scratches the surface' in addressing knowledge, skill, and ability change. However, I'm curious as to thoughts on specifically social media as an indicator and ways that can be measured. I'm inclined to think that there are both insular communities that can organize through social media as well as external communication through media projection, in contrast to the use of various forms of media in intervention design.
Do you know of any notable programs that have used participant-sourced media to inform DM&E? Particularly, I wonder how useful social media can be in providing a glimpse into current knowledge, skills, and attitudes (abilities, less so) among target populations.
In respnose to mcc above, I feel that media exposure surrounding programming is a two-way street. It may indeed increase fundraising opportunities, but I also feel that it could be prohibitive in more contentious contexts. Regardless, media (especially social media) is here to stay and will only continue to expand. We should embrace the opportunities (and address the challenges) head-on. Thanks for the resources, DME community.