The Influence of Narrative and Participatory Drama in Increasing Social Interaction and Efficacy around Health and Environmental Issues in Malawi
Young, Carrie E.
This dissertation explores the role of creative, participatory methods of communication in response to the impacts of climate change and other environmental and social pressures in Sub- Saharan Africa. Specifically, the research seeks to understand the extent to which narrative and participatory drama influence social interaction, attitudes, and efficacy around inter-related sustainability issues among smallholder farmers in Malawi. To test the role of these communication methods, 520 smallholder farmers in two regions of the country participated in an integrated curriculum on climate change, agroecology, soil health, health and nutrition, and social equity in the early summer of 2016. Half of the participants used stories and drama in their training, and the other half acted as a control group using small group discussions without the prompted use of narrative or drama. The findings presented here include qualitative in-depth interviews (N = 47), firsthand observations, and quantitative baseline and follow-up survey data (N = 442). The research draws on communication theories around social and behavioral science, specifically as these theories relate to health, environmental, science, and risk communication. The work is unique in context and scale and also in its consideration of how best to communicate the complex interrelationships between multiple sustainability issues. This research also aims to strengthen communication efforts around sensitive social issues, such as HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, and violence in the household. Findings revealed that the use of narrative and participatory drama within the training served to influence social interaction, attitudes, and efficacy in positive ways. The results also showed that narrative and participatory drama play an important role in engaging and empowering vulnerable groups, including women and those with little or no education. The findings showed increased positive attitudes and efficacy around new ideas relating to environmental conservation and equality, some of which affirmed long-held traditional beliefs and some of which ran counter to those beliefs. Small group discussions also revealed many of the positive benefits of narrative and drama, including increasing engagement and the ability to talk about sensitive subjects for male participants. Both communication methods proved valuable as learning tools around sustainability information, with narrative and drama having the singular benefit of acting as both a learning and a teaching tool for farmers. Participants described the use of participatory drama, in particular, as helping them attract and hold the attention of large groups of farmers (often >200) when sharing information after the training. In this way, these creative and participatory communication methods aid in not only the communication of complex and linked sustainability topics but also making the information itself more sustainable as farmers pass on what they have learned to others. These findings help expand previous research on the use of narrative and drama around health and environmental issues, illustrating the valuable role of these communication methods in helping to tackle some of the world’s most pressing and complex questions and challenges around long-term planetary health.
International Development; Environmental education; Conservation Agriculture; Health; Communication; Health education; environment; Climate change; sustainability
McComas, Katherine Anne
Lewenstein, Bruce Voss; Niederdeppe, Jeffrey D. H.; Wolfe, David Walter
Ph. D., Communication
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis