Around the Institute

Telenovelas and Social Change Messaging

December 14, 2012

Changing Attitudes, Globally

On December 3rd, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine spoke at the Heritage Foundation about ongoing efforts to evaluate US diplomacy.  She tackles the challenge of assessing the influence of the State Department’s work on the attitudes and opinions of foreign publics toward the United States.  Their “Public Diplomacy Impact” studies take a mixed-methods approach, combining web analytics and opinion polling with qualitative tools like focus groups.  Check out the full speech here.

On Catholic Intensity

Responding to a recent article in the Washington Post, religious studies scholar Martin Marty ruminates on the meaning of Catholic “intensity”—and its decline over the years.  Curiously, this takes us back to that nebulous word, engagement, and potential ways to measure it.  Marty’s piece reinforces one of our core assumptions: that just as intensity varies by certain “degrees of participation in religious institutional life,” engagement may be understood as a spectrum of activities, each representing increased interaction with specific messages and ideas.


We can’t help but admire the work of the telenovela-lovin’ folks at the Population Media Center (PMC).  Earlier this year, they collaborated with MTV Tr3s to produce Ultimo Año, a high-school drama with a healthy dose of positive messaging about contraception and family planning. And this month, PMC has partnered with the United Nations Population Fund to further amplify their impact through a digital campaign called “SexySex.”  We’re keeping our eyes on this one!