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Air Waves to Improve Air Quality: Stories Will Be The Bridge Between Prosperity And Planet

We aim to improve air quality in Uttar Pradesh through storytelling and community action.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

On a December afternoon, in a village of the holy city of Varanasi, India, a group of 25 women engaged in a conversation with the facilitator on ‘pollution’. A woman sternly said, "pollution? What pollution? Do you want us to mop the air?” All 25 women laughed. Air Pollution in India’s largest, most populous and polluted state of Uttar Pradesh is taking a toll on public health and quality of life outcomes. The problem of air pollution is omnipresent yet unrecognized as a behavioral issue. We, The Change Designers are committed to bridging this rift through a 26-episode entertainment-education (EE) radio drama coupled with live call in sessions and listener groups in different parts of the city. Our idea is to use the power of storytelling, emotions and engagement with the communities to ripple improvement in air quality with immediate action. The radio show will be designed as a participatory process using design thinking and improv prototyping, to be rolled out on multiple platforms including radio and listener groups. This idea is a continuation of a 6-episode radio drama ‘Ek Zindagi Aisi Bhi’ (EZAB) translating to ‘A Life We Aspire For’ implemented in 2017. With each 30-minute episode and 3 listener groups in Varanasi and Lucknow, the hyper-localized EE radio drama series used an emotional appeal to recognize air pollution as a hazardous issue, build correct knowledge on air pollution, create accountability among stakeholders and spur responsible actions for environmental consciousness and management. The show aired on 18 All India Radio stations, India’s national public broadcasting system, and 4 community radio stations with a reach of over 20 million people. EZAB followed an innovative and interactive narrative-plus model with epilogues, associated listener groups, role-playing and story development activities. Qualitative evaluation pointed towards social learning and changed behaviours for improving air quality among listeners.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries of the program range from children, men and women between the ages of 12 and 45 living in Varanasi, UP. Varanasi remains the focal point of the intervention, as it is the hub for cultural convergence, religious confluence and tourist dynamism. However, over the years, the growing dust, construction, traffic, burning of waste, industry emissions among others, have led to the dilapidation of this historic city making it one of the most toxic cities in the country and the third most polluted city in the world (WHO, 2018). Researchers have found the dangerous levels of airborne pollution in Varanasi finer that 2.5micro-metres- recorded to be the most dangerous variety of pollutants.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The idea brings forth human centered approach to solving a mass complex social problem through interactive storytelling, marking a step ahead. The intended intervention seeks to witness the coming together systems thinking to transforming the creators of the problem into problem solvers through locally relevant and sustainable solutions. Our competitive analysis shows that our idea and overarching objectives are one of their kinds. We endeavor to tackle the issue end to end (primary research, content creation, broadcast, monitoring & impact assessment) using a highly unique combination of storytelling and generation of new stories to reap actions for tackling the problem of air pollution. Moreover, our unique process leads to the coming together of people and telling their unique stories that the community defines, designs and manages. The intervention will create a user experience that will allow for self-selected and self-motivated collective action and moving toward new reality.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

THE CHANGE DESIGNERS LLP We are multi-disciplinary communication for social, organizational and behavior change organization specializing in innovative and evidence based communication and change mechanisms to elicit audience engagement and action enabling communities to grow from the inside out. We practice unique set of participatory communication approaches that enable the generation of locally tailored solutions to complex social problems.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

We are inspired by the power of stories and how they can move people to desired emotions and if guided carefully, to actions desired. Storytelling as a methodology has been used widely across the world to affect change, however we are inspired by the way stories create new stories and reap that advantage to building the bridge between prosperity and planet to build sustainable, bottom up change in communities.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

This idea bridges prosperity and planet for the local communities. Prosperity in the local context means the ability to live life without physical constraints, illnesses and happily. On the other hand, planet holds a bigger importance as the physical environment one lives in determines other social, physical, and economic determinants. Varanasi is central to India's culture with the sacred river Ganges flowing through where thousands of pilgrims travel to bathe in the holy water. Unfortunately, the river is no more clean, the rising population of the city has caused disturbance to regular activities once enjoyed and the has caused huge distress to the natural as well as artificial resources needed for a 'good' life. Thus this bridge is essential to be tackled with local stories, local characters, songs, and self driven action to lead to sustainable bridge and change for optimum prosperity and planet to live!

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Last year, we partnered with a local registered NGO called Care4air as local partners for the implementation of the listener groups, to keep communities motivated and to create accountability among listeners to continuously take action to improve air quality. Care4air's relationships were reaped to procure spaces to conduct listener groups, hire facilitators, hire photographers and create a repository of all the data collected. This was a very successful partnership and all participants were very happy. All India Radio, India's national broadcasting radio network: All India Radio has the largest air wave reach in the country. In UP alone, AIR has 18 radio stations that reach more than 90% of the population, even in the remotest areas. We partnered with AIR to broadcast the shows, one per week at primetime to gain maximum listenership. All content to be aired is always checked by the radio network to maintain very high quality standards.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our community has been exposed to a 6 episode intervention in 2017 and we have developed many catalysts who can now diffuse the innovation to masses, mobilise and create collective action to improve air quality in Varanasi. Most importantly, during the last intervention, women were activated for the first time to take action to improve air quality, that is the biggest asset to the success of the program [ Read: Rippling 1 to 1000 story in Ripples Newsletter attached].

Geographic Focus

This project focuses on Varanasi City, Uttar Pradesh, India.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Total Timeline: 9 months from start to finish of the program. Month 1: Formative Research and Program Design Month 2: Production of 1st two episodes and beginning of community engagement through listener groups Month 3-7: Continued community engagement at listener groups, collection of monitoring data, production of new episodes with communities through design thinking processes and broadcast Month 8-9: Qualitative Evaluation, data collection and analysis, reporting and submission

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (3)

Stories of Change_Ek Zindagi Aisi Bhi.docx

Get excited by a trailer of the stories of change of after effects of Ek Zindagi Aisi Bhi

Stories Building Bridges between Prosperity and Planet_TCD_OpenIdeo.pptx

Join in for a story ride with this presentation with key stories and highlights of the show


Check out our newsletter for Rippling 1 to 1000 story about Ek Zindagi Aisi Bhi


Join the conversation:

Photo of One World In A Box

Dear Change Designers,

Your project sounds exciting, and it's noticeable you believe in what you do. I just have a few questions, how popular is the media of radio in Varanasi? Do you have numbers of how many people listen to the radio on a daily basis? And from which social strata, gender and so forth, are these listeners? Once you know this, you might know where to bridge gaps as well as which target groups, children for instance, are not listening to the stories. Furthermore, how do you compete with the TV or Internet? In other words, how will you stand out (initially) from these two to the people?
If I understand correctly, you will listen together to the programme on the radio and in that way lead discussions and steer the group towards sustainable living. But if your target group is poor for example, how will you convince them to give up any amount of time of working to attend these sessions? And how will you ensure that the impact is not short lived but one that stays and is practiced in their daily lives?

I look forward to hearing from you! All the best in any case!

M. Ahmadi

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