Key findings Research for this helpdesk report did not find a specific body of literature focused on sending messages to change attitudes, norms and behaviour about violent conflict. Rather, there is a wide range of literature that covers interventions to address conflict, which include the sending of messages in one form or another, and often as part of a wider strategy. This report explores the substantial literature on such multi-faceted interventions so as to identify the influence and effectiveness of the message-sending component.
Sending messages through media campaigns has been effective in other sectors, most notably in relation to health issues, but though there are examples where sending messages impacts on attitudes, norms and behaviour, there is no conclusive evidence that by itself it causes such changes. Sending messages is likely to only be effective in conjunction with a comprehensive approach involving a wider range of activities, such as dialogue or training.
The media, such as newspapers, radio and television, are the main way that messages to change attitudes and behaviour are communicated in campaigns. In conflict situations, the media does not necessarily always either promote or prevent conflict, but still acts as an important, influential force in most societies. The media can help inform decisions and counteract hateful and violent messages, but can also undermine peacebuilding processes. There is no single way that the media affects audiences, and the media cannot ‘inject’ behaviours or attitudes into people’s minds but rather affects the formation of attitudes and beliefs which in turn impact on behaviour.
In addition to media interventions, two approaches to sending messages are identified that seem of particular relevance: social marketing and the inclusion of educational messages in entertainment programmes.
A number of case studies are identified in the report that cover multi-faceted interventions and include a messaging component. Projects are explored from Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bosnia.