Creating behaviour change

We believe that the most effective way to change behaviours is through short, realistic dramas and audience interaction.

SHORT. This means between one and 20 minutes. Longer than that, and our rural audiences (who often listen to radio while at work) cannot, or will not, listen. Our stories are emotionally strong, but brief.

REALISTIC. Our research shows that our target audience prefer stories that are rooted in their everyday lives. We use talented amateur actors rather than professionals, and we provide basic scripts that allow for improvisation and for adaptation to the local context. People identify more easily with characters that they believe in, and are more likely to change their behaviours as a result. Often, our stories are so realistic that people think they are true, and ask us for news of the characters. Our interactive programmes cover everyday personal issues. We also encourage listeners to call in to discuss what they have heard.

DRAMAS. The human brain is hardwired to respond to emotion better than it responds to intellectual reflection. Drama plays on that emotion, influencing our choices and behaviours. It inspires empathy with the characters, which in turn often leads to behaviour change. We are much more likely to start wearing motorbike helmets after reading a story about a young woman killed on a motorbike on the day of her wedding than after hearing about a report citing thousands of motorbike accidents every year.

The basic three-part dramatic structure that we use for behaviour change campaigns directly mirrors the structure of film plots written in Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood:

  • Act 1 - the exposition, setting out the obstacle or dramatic tension
  • Act 2 - the suspenseful uncertainty leading up to the main conflict
  • Act 3 - the resolution

This structure is ideally suited to dramas that promote behaviour change, since the protagonist must always overcome some kind of obstacle (cultural, social, financial, mental or physical) before changing his or her behaviour. Sometimes the audience is willing the protagonist on to reach her goal by overcoming these obstacles, but at other times the obstacle is within the protagonist himself, and he must realise his mistake and change his behaviours!