Every year, the World Bank and client governments invest millions in behavior-change campaigns across almost all development sectors. However, many of these campaigns are unconvincing, lack inspiring narratives, and are communicated through outmoded and uninteresting outlets such as billboards and leaflets. Systematic reviews of these campaigns from risky sexual behavior to handwashing consistently show little or no effect on behavior, especially in the long term.
There is an unprecedented opportunity to use entertainment media to change the lives of billions of people, especially in urban areas. Entertainment education or edutainment can be a game-changer for development. Unlike traditional behavior-change campaigns that convey abstract concepts and can become repetitive quickly, educational narratives are easier to follow and remember than abstract information. Characters in mass media have the power to be role models, inspire audiences to engage in new thinking about “what is possible”, and change the perception of what is “normal” and socially acceptable behavior.
The 2015 and 2016 World Development Reports respectively highlighted the untapped potential of entertainment education and mass media in development practice. However, the evidence base regarding the effectiveness of entertainment media remains thin, especially to advise the scale up of entertainment media as a development tool across different sectors. There is a lot to learn about the best way to maximize the impact and minimize unintended consequences of entertainment media, a powerful tool that is largely untapped for development. DIME is starting to expand this evidence base with ongoing experimental evaluations that explore the relative effectiveness of radio spots versus printed narratives to promote adoption of solar lanterns in rural Senegal; the use of a Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) movie to promote financial savings, and of the MTV Shuga drama to reduce risky sex and gender-based violence in Nigeria.