Well-Crafted Entertainment Can Change the World
March 10, 2014 | 1454 views
Each year at the Skoll World Forum, nearly 1,000 of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs, key thought leaders and strategic partners gather at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to exchange ideas, solutions and information. We asked a number of speakers to discuss the critical issues, challenges and opportunities underpinning their sessions in advance of the Forum to ground a richer debate both online and in Oxford.
Learn more about the 2014 Skoll World Forum, sign up to our newsletter to be notified of the live stream, view the 2014 delegate roster and discover what themes and ideas we'll be covering this year at the event. Also, read about the seven recipients of this year's Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
For more than 20 years, we at Search for Common Ground have produced innovative TV and radio programs designed to prevent violence and transform conflict. The goal of our media division, Common Ground Productions (CGP), is to use creative storytelling techniques to influence attitudes and behaviors. Our basic premise is that well-crafted, entertaining programming can have a profound impact on how people think about themselves, their neighbors, and their society. Our work reaches tens of millions of people on the intellectual, visual, aural, and emotional levels.
In short, we use the tools of popular culture to reach mass audiences with values of mutual respect, non-violence, and cooperation. As far as we know, no other organization is doing work of this sort on a comparable scale.
Rather than produce one program at a time, as most film-makers do, we make multi-episode series. Indeed, we are convinced that repetition – as long as it is engaging and evolving – is a key element in bringing about positive change.
Since 2008, we have produced or co-produced 296 half-hour episodes of dramatic TV in 15 different countries. In addition, we have made 68 episodes of reality TV, one feature-length, dramatic film, and several thousand hours of radio programs. And we do all this with a full-time staff of only two people, who work in partnership with local media production entities and with Search for Common Ground field offices around the world.
Our media productions are rooted in the local cultural context. Indigenous writers, directors, and technicians make our shows – and adapt traditional storytelling traditions to produce programming in a common ground framework. So, Sierra Leoneans write and direct our daily radio soap opera, of which more than 3,500 episodes have aired and which promotes national reconciliation. And Kenyans, Ivoirians, Moroccans, Palestinians, Nepalese, Congolese, and people from a dozen other countries produce local versions of “The Team,” our signature TV and radio drama series about soccer players from different ethnic and religious groups who overcome their differences and play together.
We call this “soap opera for social change.” Click here to a trailer of “The Team”.
In addition, we use other formats, and we are currently in pre-production in Amman of a new Arabic-language series, called “Madame President.” It will have 15 episodes and will be broadcast by satellite TV across the Middle East. It will be set in a fictional Arab country and will resemble the US series, “The West Wing” – except that the President will be a woman who will eschew saving face and will choose not to exact revenge. She will resolve problems fairly, be willing to compromise, avoid violence, and generally act in a manner that directly contrasts with the path followed by most male leaders.
In addition to dramatic TV, we also produce other kinds of programming, including: