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loveLife's UNCUT: Storytelling as a tool for behaviour change


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The ongoing incidence of infection among the world’s youth requires a range of strategies that take prevention out of a vacuum and are sensitive to the circumstances, constraints and sense of limited opportunity that make young people tolerant of risky behaviour to begin with. To help young people not only personalise but also to eschew this risk by tapping into a sense of worth and identity, the paper uses the example of loveLife’s UNCUT magazine as a modern form of storytelling that functions as a site of positive youth development through identification and role modeling to inspire and motivate behaviour among youth readers.

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loveLife's UNCUT: Storytelling as a tool for behaviour change

  1. 1. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Revisiting HIV prevention: Storytelling as a communications strategy for behaviour change among young people
  2. 2. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling UNCUT… • SA’s largest youth magazine with a bi-monthly print run of 485 000 copies •Distributed through 5 newspapers and directly to 376 clinics, 142 franchises, 69 outlets, 18 Youth Centres and distributed by loveLife volunteers in more than 5 000 schools • Placed in the top 10 newsprint brands by Markinor/Sunday Times Top Brands Survey
  3. 3. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Why focus on youth as target audience? In South Africa, infection among youth account for about half of new adult infections – driving the overall epidemic in SA “The best prospect for changing the course of the HIV epidemic is in substantially reducing new infection rates among successive cohorts of 12 – 17 year olds” (Harrison & Steinberg, 2002).
  4. 4. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling UNCUT magazine: Provides practical knowledge – but more importantly provides opportunities for identification and role modeling through storytelling as an impetus for readers to act on knowledge gained for behaviour change
  5. 5. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Teenzines can be employed in the: “construction of everyday knowledge through which the reader makes sense of themselves and their everyday world intelligible” (Dawn Currie, 1999). “Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning” (Rose, 2011)
  6. 6. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling WHY STORYTELLING? “Narrative communication can break down cognitive resistance to behaviour change messages” (Houston et al., 2011)
  7. 7. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling “Open communication about sex and sexuality is an essential precondition for sexual behaviour change, backed up by comprehensive services and support programmes…” As such, loveLife‟s introduced two PRINT publications to add to this conversation about teen sexual behaviour (and its link to HIV) - but also to provide answers to the questions it would raise…
  8. 8. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingS’camtoPRINT*: Launched in 2000 to provide sexual health messaging* S’camto = let’s talk about it
  9. 9. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingExamples of practical sexualhealth messaging:
  10. 10. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling thethaNathi:* Launched in 2001 to offer sexual health messaging and reinforce loveLife‟s motivational messaging *thethaNathi = talk to us in Xhosa
  11. 11. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling S’camtoUNCUT (2004): “Innovation with sass, sexuality with intelligence, knowledge with compassion” Paid growing attention to issues beyond teen sexuality and safe sex messaging – issues that impacted on youth and their outlook on life, which in turn impacts their behaviour…
  12. 12. STEP 2:“Think that being poor means being helpless. Those whoare still trapped in poverty may think their situation is hopeless.But even if you’re hungry, there’s a lot of future you can control.Find a way to go to school, know where you want to go in life, waittil you’re older to have sex, stick to one partner, always use acondom. These are real ways to improve your future prospects. Noguarantee, no short cuts…(Five Easy Steps to Screwing up theFuture, Issue 3, March 2004)
  13. 13. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling … This coincided with loveLife‟s overall shift to paying greater attention to the external drivers of HIV and tolerance of risk in its programming
  14. 14. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling The sticking point in the epidemic is not a lack of knowledge but a tolerance of risk (Pettifor et al, 2004) because of the perception of limited opportunity. Culture theory proposes that limited choice and low social solidarity characteristic of highly unequal societies such as South Africa predispose to high-risk tolerance (Thompson, Ellis & Wildavsky, 1990). Young people are frustrated by the limited choices and constraints they experience in their day-to-day lives. They feel they are ‘living in the meantime’ and are resigned to their situations.
  15. 15. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling To align with this shift in strategy, UNCUT gave more scope to the first person narrative in sections specially created to build young people‟s sense of identity, purpose and belonging – and give them a greater VOICE
  16. 16. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingIt is through the use of “interpretive repertoires” that textsbecome meaningful to readers (Hermes, 1995)Repertoire of practical knowledge vs.repertoire of “emotional learning andconnected knowing”
  17. 17. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Repertoire of practical knowledge
  18. 18. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling“Knowledge is not a sufficient condition for behaviorchange” (Freimuth, 1992)The challenge: To get young people to turn practicalknowledge/information into creative action to overcome thevortex of disempowerment and aimlessness in which theyfind themselves in the present.
  19. 19. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Stories can be useful as repertoires of “emotional learning and connected knowing” which is “about „learning‟… and „recognising yourself in stories and articles‟”… Youth as storytellers can be used to expand the repertoire of “emotional learning and connected knowing” by acting as role models readers can identify with
  20. 20. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling“Stories can help listeners make meaning of their lives…and listeners may be influenced if they actively engage ina story, identify themselves with the storyteller, andpicture themselves taking part in the action” (Houston etal., 2011).
  21. 21. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingUNCUT uses the perceived similarity or “homophily” between reader andstoryteller to demonstrate to youth that better lives are possible if action is takento bring about change.To take action and know what action to take –young people must first know who they are andwhat they believe in (self-identity) and valuethemselves (self-worth) – especially in the contextof a society that continues to define youth asproblems rather than assets and frequently silencesyouth voices.
  22. 22. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Sections through which youth share stories to explore various aspects of self: Belief & Value Identity, Pride & Aspiration
  23. 23. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingGeneration Chat: Parents and youth tellboth sides of the story
  24. 24. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingImportance of youth as role models: “mostBandura‟s social learning theory states thatbehaviours are learned frommodelling” i.e vicarious learningfrom others is a powerful teacher ofattitudes and behaviours
  25. 25. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling The power of youth storytellers: • Authentic characters or „real‟ people • Have “direct experience” of the same issues faced by reader • This “direct experience” lends credibility to the storyteller and makes “effective messengers of information” (Chou et al., cc) In this way, narrative communication offers unique advantages over traditional expository or didactic communication in the context of promoting desirable health behaviors (Chou et al.)
  26. 26. UNCUT: prevention through storytellingStorytelling to foster a senseof belonging – both locally &globally to a movement ofyoung people finding ownsolutions/opportunities totheir problemsGlobal ID section: Sharing voices of youthfrom across the world to share own stories– good and bad – of growing up andovercoming challenges
  27. 27. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Act of reading = traditionally an isolated event BUT Common for youth to read UNCUT together or as part of classroom discussion i.e. reading stories becomes a communal act allowing for interpersonal communication
  28. 28. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling We are living in a heightened stage of Ong’s “second orality” – like primary orality, second orality has generated a strong group sense – but immeasurably larger than primary oral culture (Ong, 1982)
  29. 29. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling Furthermore, UNCUT stories integrated with new media e.g. loveLife’s mobile social network MYMsta… Readers encouraged to join or start groups around the stories they have read i.e storytelling becomes more sophisticated with potentially no end – connecting youth in a greater network of opportunity and peer-to-peer education through their own narratives
  30. 30. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling “a new type of narrative is emerging, one that‟s told through many media at once in a way that‟s nonlinear, participatory and above all, immersive. This is „deep media‟: stories that take you deeper than an hour-long TV drama or a two-hour movie or a 30-second spot will permit” (Rose, 2011)
  31. 31. UNCUT: prevention through storytelling By THANK YOU SIYABONGA By: Esther Etkin, Cape Town, South Africa