Using academically researched methodologies, La Benevolencija develops “knowledge tools” – guides on how to deal with an array of manipulative pressures that move individuals and whole societies to physical and mental harm. These tools are presented in media campaigns that use entertainment and education methods to reach audiences that are affected by violence. La Benevolencija’s work is based on three central pillars and acknowledged academic research.
The theoretical base of La Benevolencija’s knowledge tools is the work of La Benevolencija’s Academic Team , under Prof. Ervin Staub, professor in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts (U.S.) His book “The roots of evil” analyses the psychological make-up of perpetrators in different cases of genocide and mass killings in the 20th century. Based on this extensive research he identifies a universal continuum of destruction that step by step describes the psychological mechanisms of how group violence evolves.
In order to give people insights in how one can provide emotional support to victims and contribute to reconciliation, La Benevolencija works with Dr. Laurie Pearlman, a renowned trauma-expert who has worked with Prof. Staub for many years on reconciliation projects. Her approach to trauma healing forms the backbone of La Benevolencija’s communal trauma healing methodology.
To get the message across, La Benevolencija employs an Education and Entertainment strategy that is based on general behaviour change theory, widely employed in education & entertainment (edutainment) attitude-change projects: a KAP approach. It stands for changing behaviour by first changing Knowledge, then Attitude, and as a last step implementing the insights gained in Practice.
All methodologies are applied in Benevolencija’s products:
1. Edutainment radio drama’s (soaps) targeting the general population. All dramas are broadcasted in local languages – Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Kiswahili – and foster the comprehension of violence and trauma healing, leading to the adoption of non-violent attitudes and the advancement of reconciliation. By following the lives of various radio drama characters, listeners better understand the mechanisms of how to prevent violence, how to start the process of reconciliation, how to engage in appropriate justice procedures and how to help their traumatized neighbours. Role models presented in all three different soaps follow an evolution of violence and counteract it by modes of prevention. Their storylines are all structured and sequenced around 32 messages that contain both Staubs”s “Continuum” as well as Pearlman’s RICH Community Trauma assistance methodology.
2. Factual radio and TV programmes for a leadership audience. These programs, just like the dramas, are broadcasted in the three main local languages and aim to foster an understanding of the continuum of destruction as a “mind map”. They create public space for open discussions of all the important issues relating to the themes developed in the drama series. Radio Benevolencija is currently airing Kuki (“Why?”) in Rwanda and the DRC. They enable listeners to position themselves as active participants in the process of achieving peace and national reconciliation.
3. Creating practical experience for the audience by implementing broadcasted content through grassroots activities. Starting out as activities connected to communal listening to the radio programs, these activities range from creating civic associations, conducting community debates and performing participatory theatre pieces, to community mediation activities and active bystandership action against the use of hate speech in rural communities. These activities combine know-how and training that reaches even the most remote areas of the countries and allow the people to engage and re-engage with the themes of the broadcasts long after they are off the air. They also foster a second purpose which is the setting up of a network of activist groups that, through identification with the radio program actors start “branding” themselves as “active bystanders” and take on a commitment to recognize and withstand incitement to violence and to act to heal trauma.
Each year, Radio La Benevolencija conducts an academic review and impact evaluation of the above-mentioned strategies in its Annual Report, headed up by Elizabeth Levy Paluck of Yale University.
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