Founded in 1996 by American artist and educator Pamela Brooke, Story Workshop Educational Trust is a media organisation bringing social change communication together with creative entertainment in an effort to improve the everyday lives of people in Malawi, Africa. Story Workshop uses media and personal contact to reach Malawians on issues that include food security, health and HIV/AIDS, environmental protection, human rights and democracy, and gender.
Story Workshop uses the strategy of "edutainment" for social change, drawing on radio shows, village theatre, printed materials, music, training/capacity building, and community dialogue. The organisation uses these communication tools to tell stories that are based on the real lives of people and to facilitate community mobilisation. The strategy involves not simply conveying messages but, rather, facilitating communication among people - based on the belief that listening to people's problems and the obstacles they are confronted with is the most effective strategy for helping Malawians improve their lives.
Specific programmes and strategies are described on the Story Workshop website. However, in short, the organisation designs:
- Radio programmes - soap operas, radio magazines, debates, and short programmes and jingles - which take a number of formats, depending on audience and message (the goal is to ensure that information fits the social context of a community). The organisation's first project was a radio soap opera about family health, funded by UNICEF, called Zimachitika. To cite only one more recent example of a Story Workshop programme,Mutu Umodzi Susenza Denga: Rural Development Communications Campaign Debates was launched in August 2004 to generate dialogue on controversial issues and air possible solutions through monthly policy and advocacy panel debates.
- Printed material - comic books, booklets, low-literacy prints, and Journalism Competitions. The latter are designed to increase the incentive for public coverage of the above-described radio debates by awarding prizes to journalists who most effectively put a "human face" on the issues raised in the debates through their investigative reporting and creative feature writing skills. To support this process, Story Workshop organises research field trips for journalists.
- Theatre - participatory village action theatre drawing on oral tradition. Plays take place in the villages where audiences live, incorporating local residents into the performances themselves. The performances have reportedly resulted in house paintings, fabric banners, local dramas, poems, songs and dances illustrating "do" and "don't" behaviours.
- Music Story Workshop uses music as a vehicle to motivate people to move (physically and emotionally), as well as to facilitate such local productions as Tingathe!, a celebrity compilation focused on raising awareness of violence against women.
- Community dialogue - Story Workshop incorporates field research and structured community dialogue in an effort to ensure that Malawians do not simply consume messages - but discuss, debate, and put them into action. Activties include radio listener clubs, action research, and radio research gardens. The latter approach is carried out in conjunction with Mwana Alirenji, Story Workshop's farmer-to-farmer radio magazine. Groups of farmers collectively experiment with innovative approaches to agricultural challenges, then report on their experiences to other farmers through the radio shows. In this way, knowledge is transferred from to farmer through peer-to-peer learning.
- Training and capacity-building - for example, Story Workshop has offered AIDS-awareness messaging training for the Malawi Network of AIDS Services Organizations (MANASO).
Health, Family Planning, Women, Girls' Education, Rights, Economic and Political Development, HIV/AIDS, Gender, Natural Resource Management.
Visit Story Workshop's Listen-and-Look Interactive Studio to experience their radio and print work, and visit their photo gallery to see Story Workshop in action in Malawi.
Various activities have been funded by various organisations including UNICEF, European Commission, UNDP, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Population Communications International (PCI), USAID, UNAIDS and UNFPA.