SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to Improve Radio Dramas

SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs.  To support the reconciliation and reintegration of ex-militants in the Niger Delta, the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project was implemented with the support of the European Union from December 2011- June 2013.  The project was carried out with five local partners,[1] who were instrumental in SFCG Nigeria’s ability to work directly with seven local communities in the Delta.

One of TND’s major activities was to develop radio dramas to address rumors and misinformation, to provide community members with relatable characters and scenarios, and to support SFCG’s conflict resolution training and advocacy work.

The radio dramas were launched in a two-part series and were produced in Pidgin  English. The first series, Sweet Motherland, focused on the challenges communities in the Delta face- corruption, unemployment, environmental degradation, and inter-communal conflict.

A Listenership Feedback Hotline was created using the FrontlineSMS platform and a corresponding feedback database, which was used to collect and analyze listener feedback to the radio programs and send information about broadcast times.  The FrontlineSMS phone number was announced during each radio program and radio callers were encouraged to provide feedback. Feedback was manually coded by the DME Manager and the Media Coordinator, based on pre-determined categories and parameters. While incentives were not regularly offered to those who sent SMS or called in, a few t-shirt contests were organized to encourage participation in a weekly feedback program. Listeners who texted in were sent questions on a weekly basis, and TND gave the winners, drawn at random, TND branded t-shirts as prizes.

SMS received through the hotline were integral in the development of the second radio drama, and highlighted some surprising results.  A number of listeners really enjoyed and related to Bonny Face, a young man who had organized a group of fellow youth to collect a ‘security’ levy from community members and intimidated non-native community members during a local election. Bonny Face was meant to be the antagonist, but many listeners felt he was entrepreneurial– looking out for himself and his family by making money in any way he could.  This feedback was essential to the development of subsequent episodes, as well as the second radio drama. Writers were able to make Bonny Face less likeable, having his character kidnap the local chief and collude with oil companies. Listeners were able to see how these types of decisions negatively impacted the community at large.

The second radio drama, Day Don Break, not only looked at real, current challenges in the Delta, but also provided an inspirational vision of what future life in the Delta could look like.  This brighter future could be achieved through the reconciliation and reintegration of ex-militants in the community, as well as a rebuilding and healing of the whole community.  SFCG was able to use feedback from Sweet Motherland to improve Day Don Break and shared feedback with their local partner the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA).

The successful use of the FrontlineSMS software led SFCG Nigeria to use the software as an integral part of an Early Warning System (EWS) in another project to monitor incidences of religious violence in Northern Nigeria. SFCG will continue to use listener feedback in the development of future and current radio programs, not only in Nigeria, but in their programs world wide.  Local partners and Information and Resource Centres (IRCs) set up in six communities in the Delta have continued to use FrontlineSMS and listener feedback to monitor their programs and services.

[1] Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), the Niger Delta Professionals for Development (NIDPRODEV), the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA), and the Institute for Media and Society (IMESO), and one international partner, Developing Radio Partners (DRP)