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Laying the Foundation for a Groundbreaking Radio Program

Radio Workshop Participants in Guatemala Learn and Create Together

inspiring health behavior change through drama

“Other workshops… they can make you sleepy,” says Catalina Juliana as she laughs. “But this workshop was an incredible experience.”

Catalina Juliana, a radio host for Radio La Voz de Nebaj in the Quiché department of Guatemala, joined the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) Guatemala team for a four-day workshop in Guatemala City where participants learned the history and basics of entertainment education, the elements of effective drama for health behavior change and worked together to write and record an episode of a radionovela. HC3 Guatemala invited representatives from radio stations in the Western Highlands as well as USAID staff and implementing partners to take part in this unique and participatory experience.

The view from the roof of the Instituto de Nutrición de Centroamérica y Panamá, where the workshop was held.
The view from the room of the Instituto de Nutrición de Centroamérica y Panamá, where the workshop was held.
A busy street in Guatemala City outside of the Instituto de Nutrición de Centroamérica y Panamá, where the workshop was held.

how do you craft radio content listeners will care about?

Through this workshop, implemented with the support of USAID Guatemala, HC3 Guatemala was able to engage participants in meaningful and hands-on capacity building, gather their insights into how to craft radio content that would both engage and entertain listeners and effectively create social and behavior change. The workshop was a first and important step after the finalization of HC3 Guatemala’s social and behavior change communication (SBCC) strategy in August. The strategy highlights the importance of developing and implementing a flagship communication platform: an engaging radio magazine program that would inspire and generate health behavior and social change through drama, real life stories, interviews and the voices of compelling radio show hosts. As HC3 Guatemala learned during its overall situation analysis and landscaping study focused on radio, the medium is widely accessible and incredibly popular throughout the Western Highlands. For this reason, HC3 Guatemala chose to use radio as the foundation for its overall strategic approach.

Workshop participants take in the view while taking a break.
Workshop participants learning about the history of entertainment education from facilitator Queta Valdez.
HC3 Guatemala invited radio producers and radio show hosts from the Western Highlands to participate in the workshop.
Communications specialists from USAID-funded implementing partners were invited to participate in the workshop.
On the first day, participants introduced themselves using a lit match as a timer - an exciting activity that was enjoyed by all!
Radio producers and radio show hosts from the Western Highlands listen intently to facilitator Queta Valdez.

Hands-On Capacity Strengthening

HC3 Guatemala’s Senior Radio Consultant, Queta Valdez, MD, MS, facilitated the workshop with a focus on turning complex concepts, including neuroscience, history, communication theory, behavior change theory and hands-on creative skills-building into “peras y manzanas” (“pears and apples”) – information and techniques that are easy to understand and use by anyone, regardless of whether they are a radio host in Nebaj or a communication specialist in Guatemala City. During the four days of the workshop, Queta guided participants through the process of designing, writing and recording their own radionovelas for health behavior change. Participants chose two health topics to focus on during this exercise: family planning and nutrition during pregnancy. With these topics in mind and with the help of the results of HC3 Guatemala’s extensive literature review on maternal and child health, they mapped out key behaviors, attitudes and knowledge they wanted to promote, barriers and facilitators to taking up behaviors, and benefits of those behaviors that would resonate with their audience. They designed character profiles using the method originated by Miguel Sabido in Mexico, identifying which characters would be positive, which would be negative and which would be transitional.

Celso Solano, from Guatemalan NGO Comunicares, introduces himself.
Participants listen intently as workshop facilitator Queta Valdez leads them through an exercise.
Maria Ramirez Sanchez, a radio show host from Nebaj, Quiché, introduces herself to the group.

learning The art of subtlety

Once characters and their relationships were established, workshop participants designed dramatic storylines with their selected health topics and behaviors in mind. They learned how to subtly weave health and social messages into drama and distribute them in such a way that their audience would remain engaged and hooked on the story. With those tasks completed, they wrote scripts and recorded their program using their own voices. Guatemalan radio production and communication for development firm Comunicares, participants in the workshop, edited the audio together into a six-minute segment for the group to hear on their last day.


Key aspects from behavior change theory helped remind participants of how to craft their characters and scripts.
A fun activity to start Day 2 to brainstorm "something I learned yesterday" using the alphabet as a framework.
Small groups worked together to record a sample program.
The workshop group poses together for a picture with their certificates of completion.
A small group practices their lines before recording their sample program.

first-of-its-kind programming

Using the insights and ideas generated during the workshop, HC3 Guatemala is now working with Queta Valdez and Comunicares to map out the detailed health and social messages, character profiles and dramatic storylines for its 20-episode radio program. The program will be the first of its kind of Guatemala, using an entertainment-education approach to integrate messaging on topics across food security, maternal and child health, family planning and gender.

Watch workshop highlights

Footnote: Photos and video by Claire Slesinski, Program Officer, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs
Guatemala City, Guatemala