Entertainment for democracy, social justice and reconciliation
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The Transformative Power of Story-Telling: An Edutainment Guide for Social Change - Step 2: Formative Research

Mon, 11/28/2022 - 05:17

"The sharing of stories would be a good place to begin getting to know each other. When I listen to someone else's story, I begin to see them as a person with hopes, fears, dreams, etc. If we did nothing else but listen to each other's stories, we would be succeeding." - focus group participant, formative research

This chapter looks at how to conduct formative research in the process of creating evidence-based entertainment education (EE) to address situations of complex social justice and reconciliation. Edutainment uses tools such as booklets, posters, and radio and television programmes to influence ordinary people and their environments. They must identify with the content of the material and feel that it addresses their concerns. Thus, an EE initiative must take into consideration what people already know, think, believe, feel, and do about the issue being tackled. The qualitative research methods described in this chapter are designed to provide rich, contextually sensitive information to feed into the development of an EE initiative.

Qualitative research is a very open approach where the emphasis is on exploring and understanding people's life experiences, views, and behaviour. It allows the researcher to explore audience reception of material in much more detail than other approaches allow. Qualitative research is gathered from the intended audience twice:
  1. In the beginning, to understand the needs, views, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour of the intended audience in relation to a topic.
  2. During testing of drafts (e.g., draft scripts, draft copy for print publications, or early versions of actual electronic productions) with the intended audience to ensure among other things there are no unintended messages.
The resource describes the characteristics of effective qualitative research and outlines the different types - e.g., in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) - and steps (e.g., analysis and reporting). These processes are illustrated through case study examples of:
  • Colombia: A central component of the formative research for Romper el Silencio ("Breaking the Silence"), developed by Imaginario and its partners in the context of 60 years of armed conflict, was identifying global edutainment leaders who have designed strategies in contexts of social crisis and upheaval. Then, 20 focus groups and six in-depth interviews were carried out with adolescents aged 12 to 14, along with parents and teachers, from the 10 macro-regions established by the Truth Commission. A total of 138 people from all socio-economic strata, of different political tendencies, direct victims of the armed conflict or not, participated. Based on the findings and recommendations, it was decided that the central focus of the strategy would be an invitation to the country to Break the Silence. Each component would then work to open spaces for dialogue and generate informed debate and historical critical thinking about truth, justice, reparation, and new strategies of non-violent conflict resolution.
  • South Africa: At the outset of the research and planning phase of the project, Heartlines began the formative research that would ultimately result in the "Beyond the River" film and the supporting #WhatsYourStory? campaign. This included a literature review and a series of focus groups that informed the campaign objective, the approach, media formats, and the main messages that would be used in the campaign.
Lessons learned from Step 2 experiences:
  • Review all available information on the problem, getting advice from people who are knowledgeable on the subject so that you don't get lost in tons of information, and focus your research on gaps or on aspects you want to go deeper into.
  • Use qualitative techniques to gain a deeper understanding of your intended audiences, who are the best sources of information.
  • Follow a good methodological design in conducting formative research, guided by the advice of a person with research experience.
  • Engage people with experience and dialogue skills in facilitating focus groups and interviews.
  • Do not rely on your memory: Record and transcribe.
  • Read and reread the results of the formative research, which are the most valuable input you will have for designing your strategy
  • Design messages, choose media, and create stories while keeping the formative research in mind.
  • Share your findings with the creative team and everyone involved in the strategy.
A Collaboration between Imaginario Foundation, Heartlines and The Communication Initiative, with the support of DW Akademie
Publication Date
English, Spanish
Number of Pages

Information sent to The Communication Initiative by Juana Marulanda, Fundación Imaginario, November 22 2022.

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