I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Social Innovation Working Through The Medium of Reality TV
A reality TV programme in Kenya is harnessing social innovation to show famers how to improve their rural livelihoods. The series is called 'Shama Shape-Up' and the star of the show is a local farmer, George Mungai, who has become a mini-celebrity. He says, "The programme has taught me to practise better farming. I've learned to plant potatoes well poultry keeping, dairy farming. It has almost doubled my yields." Yet, perhaps more importantly, Mungai has also become a teacher as his neighbours are always visiting, eager to learn from him, so they too can boost their farming yields.
Shamba is the Swahili word for "small farm" and Shape-Up combines the ingredients of a reality show such as snazzy celebrity presenters with expert advice on social innovation, solar energy, soil fertility and financing. David Campbell, the show's creator and director of the edutainment company, Mediae says, "Agriculture is the absolute backbone of Kenya and the livelihood for many people. We have a potential 5.6 million rural audience for TV but there is no agricultural information on TV. We want to establish a series that gives farmers information in an educational and entertaining way."
Mungai's farm was in the first episode which was aired this March and he told the presenters he had a problem with maize storage; that his cows were very thin because he found their feed expensive; that the chickens entered the kitchen and ate the food; and his children complained that they couldn't do their homework because the kerosene lamps ran out too quickly. So, the show's presenters started to sort things out, looking at social innovation to find solutions - a soil test was carried out; fertiliser was recommended; a chicken coop was built; maize storage was improved and solar lamps provided.
David Campbell is cutting about what he sees as the failure of some donor-funded research organisations to pass on knowledge and social innovation ideas to people in the field. He believes the developed world spends very little money communicating with farmers, but instead spends millions on research, which has little to show for the investment.
The first series, which ends in June, reaches about four million people in Kenya; the production team hope to bring in three to four million viewers from Tanzania and two million from Uganda with the next series. The impact of this show has been huge, receiving nearly 3,000 positive text messages after each programme. Campbell wants to take things further and to turn the programme into a self-sustaining social innovation business and says, "Once we've done research we'll be able to say: 'Hey, look, if only 10% of our [7 million] viewers adopted a practice and they earned an extra $200 or $300, then multiply that and you get $210m going back into rural communities." Now that's the kind of reality TV that is having a real effect on people's lives.
Photo Credit: MEDIAE.org