GHIC 2019: Global Health & Innovation Conference
April 13-14, 2019
Yale University, New Haven, CT

Unite For Sight's 2011 Global Health & Innovation Conference

Blog Report by Chung-Sang Tse, Unite For Sight Global Health Leadership Intern

"Inspiring Social Change Through Storytelling and Positive Deviants," Sean Southey, Executive Director, PCI-Media Impact

Social Enterprise Pitches are ideas in the brainstorming or early implementation stage. Selected participants presented their new idea in the format of a 5-minute social enterprise pitch. Following the pitch, there was a 5-minute period for questions and answers, as well as feedback from the audience. The presenters were directed to focus their presentations on the problem that they are working to solve, the evidence basis for their idea, the expected impact, as well as plans for measuring outcomes, and not just outputs.

“230 million people per day watch the Bold and the Beautiful. What do they learn?” asked Sean Southey, Executive Director at PCI-Media Impact in New York, in his opening remarks. “They learn to buy, to cheat, and to come back from the dead.”

When the chuckles from the audience died down, Sean posed a serious question: the media’s impact spreads far and wide, but can it go beyond the provision of entertainment? For some, the television and the radio are their only window to the world-at-large. Is it possible to use television and radio to promote positive messages and inspire social change? Sean Southey thinks it can be done.

He pointed at India, where PCI-Media Impact launched a television program in an Indian community that did not celebrate the birthdays of girls – only those of boys. In turn, the females felt like “second-class citizens”; their birth records were inaccessible. In the drama series, the female protagonist – portrayed as an Indian local from the community – picked a date from the calendar, claimed it as her birthday, and celebrated it. Within six months of airing the show, the girls in the Indian community started celebrating their birthdays.

And Southey also spoke about another series, where PCI-Media Impact targeted an African community where domestic violence was prevalent.  In this close township, when a man beats a woman, others who witness it turn a blind eye. No one intervenes. To address this, a soap opera was created to show an alternative way to respond: When a woman is beaten inside her home, the neighbors would surround the fighting couple’s home and vehemently bang pots and pans to show their displeasure. They would only stop the noise when the abuser stops. After airing this show, PCI-Media Impact saw the modeled behavior adopted by the African community. Now, even when a woman is mistreated at the bar, others would bang their beer glasses with spoons to communicate the message, “I saw it, and it is not acceptable behavior.”

People love stories. Stories share solutions. Not only should it be a source of entertainment, but also of positive behavior. To date, PCI-Media Impact has extended their coverage to 27 countries with 242 productions in various medium.(1) To Sean Southey, he believes that now is the time to “harness the power of social media and model positive behavioral change.”

Footnotes

(1) PCI-Media Impact. Accessed on 5 May 2011 from < http://www.mediaimpact.org/index.html>