How Viable are Public Education Campaigns?

Browsing around the Skoll Foundation's terrific site Social Edge (for social entreprenuers and those who love them) you will find multi-media coverage of the recent Skoll World Forum on Social Entreprenuership which provides a look at cutting-edge change efforts fueled by cross-sectoral alliances.

Social Edge also attracts a vibrant community of readers who are thoughtfully participating in wide-ranging virtual conversations on social change. I was impressed by feedback provided to Paula Goldman's questions about using hybrid models (profit/non-profit) to advance public education campaigns.

She cites two interesting examples including Population Media which has been using radio soap operas to successfully encourage behavioral change on reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa and Breakthrough which has created popular music videos to raise the profile of gender-based human rights issues with a mass audience in India. Paula's questions, thoughtfully addressed by readers, include:

1) How much profit potential is there really for these public education projects? Should their goal (increased awareness of social issues) be considered a social good, and therefore rely primarily on philanthropic and public funding? How much room is there for hybrid models which combine philanthropic and for-profit strategies?

2) What are best practices to predict and measure impact? A film like An Inconvenient Truth worked brilliantly in part because it came on the back of decades of grassroots public education about the environment. Can we model the quantity and structure of awareness-raising that is needed to finally create a tipping point in public acceptance on a given issue? How would this model differ from issue to issue and from country to country?

3) What are other effective examples? Can you think of a creative/media project on a social issue that changed your life? Conversely, can you think of creative public education projects that didn’t work—and guess at why?

Check it out.

Susan Herr

Posted at 1:10 AM, Apr 15, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Social Entreprenuers | Permalink | Comment