How television can change lives: insights from GIF investees.

Jun 30, 2023

Television allows audiences to identify with characters that represent aspects of their own lives. It can therefore be leveraged as a powerful and versatile tool for education and behaviour change. That’s why innovators are exploring the power of educational entertainment (‘edu-tainment’) to address social issues across the developing world. Here, we tell the stories of three GIF investees leading trials in this space.

International Care Ministries: a Soap Opera to Alleviate Poverty

International Care Ministries (ICM) is a Filipino NGO on a mission to assist people living in ultra-poverty, defined as living on less than 50 US cents a day, by providing tailored training and mentorship through its ‘Transform’ programme. To strengthen the impact of Transform, ICM is creating a 15-episode soap opera.

The new show, ‘First Light’, has all the drama, love interests, and plot twists found in a typical soap opera. Each episode, however, also features life-changing lessons about savings, income creation, healthcare, and resilience. The poorest can utilise such knowledge to work their way out of poverty. The protagonists of the show start to make small changes after interacting with ICM Transform trainers, illustrating how these can have positive long-term effects in their lives. It is hoped that the show will inspire behavioural change.

ICM’s approach is novel in this space for being the first to trial the screening of a video each week for a period of several months directly to target communities, many of whom live in remote locations without access to electricity. To gather evidence of the real-life impacts of its innovative approach, ICM will conduct a rigorous Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). This will provide valuable evidence, which can be used to inform future development interventions in the edu-tainment space.

GIF provided ICM with a multi-purpose grant of $5 million in 2019. This has supported ICM to set a course to improve millions of lives, both directly though the 200,000+ people served by ICM’s ‘Transform’ projects, and indirectly through the knowledge gained through research such as this.

MTV Staying Alive Foundation: a Television Drama to address Gender Issues

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation (SAF) is on a mission to drive social change among youth, specifically with regards to gender-based issues. Their chosen instrument for doing so is edu-tainment. MTV Shuga is MTV SAF’s multimedia campaign, centred around a multi-award-winning television drama series.

Based on formative research, the storytelling reflects the lives of the youth the series seeks to engage and highlights behavioural choices that encourage youth empowerment. In addition to the television drama series, the campaign includes approaches such as a graphic novel, a radio drama, social media, digital media, and a peer education programme designed for delivery in schools, community centres, and other safe spaces.

The MTV Shuga campaign has recorded significant behavioural changes and increased awareness in the countries where it has been trialled. MTV SAF conducted a randomised controlled trial in collaboration with the World Bank, which showed that MTV Shuga doubled HIV testing, reduced sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and even reduced sexual violence amongst young audiences.

GIF’s 2021 grant to MTV SAF has supported the creation of two new MTV Shuga campaigns in Nigeria and Kenya, which encompass even more gender-focused storylines than previous campaigns. Most recently, MTV Shuga Naija (Nigeria) returned for its fifth season, where gender-based violence amongst young people is openly discussed.

Impact(Ed) International: Edu-tainment to provide Life Skills for Young People

Impact(Ed) International is a non-profit on a mission to provide life skills for young people, and to improve girls’ self-efficacy, agency, and educational aspirations through mentorship, community mobilisation, and its award-winning animated life skills series for young people, ‘My Better World’.

My Better World follows six African teens as they navigate the complex challenges of school, family, and friendship. Episode themes include early marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual harassment. Skills and attitudes such as communication, negotiation, and resilience are also addressed.

The series is a unique tool included in Impact(Ed)’s life skills education and mentorship model, delivered to school children aged 10-15, which includes engagement of boys, parents and communities to enable an environment for girls to exercise agency and develop the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

So far, Impact(Ed)’s programmes have reached over 305,000 children across 514 schools across Kenya. Through co-implementation with the government, Impact(Ed) will deliver the model to a further estimated 55,000 students across 110 schools over the next two years.