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4 Tips for Creating SBCC Content for Talking Book Programs


Fidelis Da-Uri (right) produced Talking Book content for programs in Ghana.


How understanding  communities drives strategies for SBCC success


Governments and NGOs use the Amplio Talking Book as a digital social and behavior change communication (SBCC) strategy. Each Talking Book partner decides what content to share, including behaviors they want to encourage. To achieve success, program managers have to figure out how to create messages that are meaningful to the communities they serve.


Amplio’s affiliates say that community entry is an essential first step for developing an effective SBCC content strategy. 


“The program knows what it wants to achieve, but you have to see it from the community’s perspective,” said Phillip Kinyota, senior technical manager at Centre for Behaviour Change Communication (CBCC), a Nairobi-based organization that specializes in SBCC solutions for the public and private sectors. “You have to develop the ideas and campaigns with the people you want to reach.”


Fidelis Da-Uri, senior content manager for Literacy Bridge Ghana (LBG), agreed. 


“Traditions, culture, and social norms dictate what is acceptable or not within a given society. Therefore, when you’re developing content, culture can be transformed to achieve behavior change and improve the health and wellbeing of people by adapting positive parts of cultural practices,” he said.


1. Understand the community’s values


Kinyota and Da-Uri agree that connecting a community’s cultural values is key to  developing effective behavior change messaging. If you understand what people care about, and connect your content to their traditional values and beliefs, you’ll have a much better chance of success. The goal is to show listeners how a desired new behavior fits into their existing belief system.


An example of CBCC's social and behavior change communication print material for the Afya Timiza project

In Kenya, CBCC has used Talking Books as one of their SBCC strategies for the USAID-funded Afya Timiza project, promoting access to quality health information and services for semi-nomadic pastoralists in Samburu and Turkana counties. Samburu and Turkana people both have a tradition of warriorhood. As CBCC spent time in the communities conducting the program’s participatory assessment, the team asked themselves, “How do we make health issues cool to a warrior culture?” CBCC's solution was to create a campaign based on the concept of heroism. The campaign encourages the uptake of maternal, newborn, and child health knowledge and practices with the idea that heroes take care of their family’s health.


2. Handle sensitive topics and taboos with extra care


Da-Uri emphasized that understanding sensitive topics and cultural taboos is crucial. Many development projects seek to address or change highly sensitive traditions and social behaviors. Content creators must approach sensitive issues with care.  


“I am always very careful when producing content about sensitive topics such as child marriage, gender roles, and women’s empowerment—or enrolling children with disabilities in school. The choice of words in such messages can generate a lot of controversies among our target groups,” Da-Uri said.


Because Da-Uri grew up in Ghana’s Upper West Region, he has a strong understanding of local languages and social norms. He often partners with local musicians and theater groups to write and record songs and audio dramas. But if a topic touches a cultural nerve, Da-Uri prefers to handle the message himself.


“Whenever a message touches on issues or behaviors that have implications, I’ll write the script or compose the lyrics myself, to guide and control the singing group on what they should say or not say. I also work with local stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders, to get their endorsement and support."


3. See where program goals and local practices overlap


Most SBCC programs focus on ways to improve health and safety, but what happens when a recommended behavior is at odds with a community’s traditions or values? 


Kinyota said it's important to look for ways to connect the program’s goals and messaging with the community’s local knowledge, attitudes, and practices—and build from there.


"CBCC recently used this approach for a reproductive health project. In this case, we want to encourage contraceptive use, but it’s considered desirable in the community for a man to have a large family. It’s a testament to his masculinity,” Kinyota explained.


To resolve this potential conflict, CBCC identified where the behaviors they want to promote overlap with the community’s traditional practices.


“Spacing of children by at least two years is generally accepted as good. Communities have had their own ways of child spacing, such as husbands moving away from the wife after she gives birth and the use of exclusive breastfeeding (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) as a family planning method,” Kinyota explained. “Thus, our entry point to these conversations has focused on spacing of pregnancies for at least two years, and why contraceptives are more reliable than traditional methods.”


4. Test your message with focus groups


Kinyota recommends spending extra time on scripts and always testing messages with focus groups that represent your target audience before deploying new content to the communities.


“Once we’ve determined key approaches and messages, we use these to create a creative brief for the content producers who create the first scripts. Then we test the scripts in the community. We play the messages for a variety of audiences including local health workers, county health management teams, and focus groups that represent the target audience in age, lifestyle, community group,” Kinyota said. 


“We test content for certain variables: is the message offensive, is the information relevant, do people like the music or story, etc. And we keep testing until no new information is coming out of focus groups. SBCC content needs to be completely infused with insights from your target audiences, so it’s relatable, it’s responding to a problem, and the solutions are actionable.”