Over 10 years ago, a group of practitioners helped conceive a concept of community theatre for development which was named Magnet Theatre. I participated actively in its experiments, recorded its philosophies and implemented it across many communities in Kenya. With the lessons, I finally wrote the manuals and training guides via which the method was introduced in several African countries and India. In 2007, PATH, C. Y. Gopinath and I were awarded the AFRICOMNET Annual Awards for Communications for Magnet Theatre.
Magnet Theatre (MT)is a form of community theatre/theatre for development that deliberately infuses audience centered elements to help mobilize and sustain that audience in unfettered and useful participation/dialogue to interrogate their issues, suggest possible solutions, experiment/test those solutions and, subsequently, report back their implementation of those solutions at the next session.
MT is fundamentally multi-session based on the theory that changes in behavior do not happen instantly but over a period of time. In essence, MT is a specific target audience centered method that takes place at a specific venue with a specific, pre-agreed schedule and encouraging a repeat audience. It a forum for the magnification of behavior change besides being an appropriate launch part to linking the audience to the services defined by the intended development. Magnet theatre elevates, just like all methods of community theatre, participation and interaction by the target audience.
Magnet Theatre has has had a successful run in the past decade. It however currently faces the challenge posed by new
trends in social and behavior change communication in which individual and small-group level interventions are encouraged against community level interventions. Categorizing MT as community level, raises the question of how individuals benefit in the mobilization and subsequent interrogation of behaviors. The process basically seeks and reaches individuals via a process that percolates from the community and finally to the individual. Packaging this argument has been a challenge here in Kenya. As such, MT implementation is now on the decline here as the dwindling donor resources are directed increasingly to the aforementioned levels. This however does not reduce the potency of MT.
Going forward, I hope to document my decade of developing, improving and implementing MT in various places, hoping that by sharing this information, more people and practitioners will understand and appreciate the concept.
Any thoughts and ideas of similar experiences?
Thank you and enjoy the work you are all doing. :-)