Soul City is a South African television drama series produced by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication initiated in 1992 as a project of the Institute of Urban Primary Health Care (IUPHC), which is itself a part of the Alexandra Clinic and University Health Centre, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
It is the longest-running primetime drama series currently airing on South African television.
The series premiered on CCV (which later became SABC1) on Wednesday 17 August 1994, at 20h30. Episodes were half an hour long for the first three seasons. They were increased to an hour long for Seasons 4-9 before reverting to half-hour episodes from Season 10.
About the Series
Broadcast in 1994, the year of South Africa's transition to democracy, Soul City was the first of its kind on television and radio.
The project was broadcast by SABC1 (then called CCV) and on all nine of the SABC regional language radio stations (Umhlobo Wenene; Ligwalagwala; Lesedi; Thala Phala; Motswideng; Thobela Fm; Ukhozi Fm; Ikwekwezi and Munghana Lonene FM).
The print material produced by the project was distributed through 11 partner newspapers: The Cape Argus; Daily News; Echo; Ilanga; Sowetan; Daily Dispatch; Diamond Fields Advertiser; Evening Post; Pretoria News and The Star.
All Soul City seasons are developed through a rigorous formative research process. This involves consulting both audiences and experts. All materials are thoroughly tested with audiences to ensure that the materials are effective.
Through formative research the lived experiences and voices of the communities are captured, giving the materials resonance and credibility.
Consulting widely with experts and key stakeholders on the topic issues. This includes government as well as civil society and (including non-governmental and community based organisations, activists and academics).
Consulting audience members about what they know, their concerns, their attitudes to the issue and the barriers that exist to positive change.
Role players and experts are brought together. They are presented with the findings from the first two steps. They then help define the issues to be included in the edutainment product and the way in which these issues will be dealt with.
A message brief that defines these messages is produced. This forms the blueprint for the creative team (producers, directors and scriptwriters) to work off in developing the TV and radio dramas.
The creative team use the message brief to integrate the issues into the entertainment vehicle. This is done in a creative workshop where the creative team is briefed and brainstorms how best to do this.
A draft outline is produced. This is tested with the experts, role players and audience members. After this, full scripts are produced.
The scripts go through a writing and testing process until the issues are have been well integrated while ensuring the product maintains its entertainment value.
The material is produced, broadcast, printed and distributed.
The materials are evaluated. Lessons learned are integrated into future productions.
Evaluation is an essential part of the Soul City IHDC strategy. It helps determine impact and is important for accountability to the public as well as to funders.
Lessons learned are fed back into the development of the IHDC's future projects. All Soul City projects are independently evaluated.
Through its multi-media and advocacy strategies aims to create an enabling environment empowering audiences to make healthy choices, both as individuals and as communities.
Soul City's Impact
Over the years, the Soul City Institute has been able to demonstrate consistent impact in relation to knowledge, attitudes, shifting social norms, increasing dialogues about issues and behaviour change.
The Institute does extensive research, recent impact findings show that some 83% of those exposed to Soul City multi-media professed willingness to help people on ARV treatment, compared to 67% in a control group – a 16% attributable difference.
Some 31% of those who had read Soul City print material had taken a test in the preceding year compared to 23% in a matched control group – an 18% attributable difference.
Exposure to one of the Soul City interventions shows 6% - 8% increase in use of condoms specifically to prevent HIV. This outcome is consistent with the health promotion messages of Soul City and is a significant achievement.
In 2009, Soul City launched a new kind of television called Kwanda – Communities with Soul. Kwanda is a community makeover show, which saw volunteer teams recruited across South Africa.
They were filmed as they worked together to address some of the biggest challenges faced by their communities: reducing new HIV infections, helping orphans and vulnerable children, reducing alcohol abuse and alcohol related violence, generating income and creating job opportunities.
Impact data from 2007:
Exposure to Soul City TV was associated with a 16% increase in people willing to help those on ARV treatment and a 19% increase in people willing to care for someone ill with AIDS.
Soul City radio was responsible for an additional 35% of people helping a child in a care-giving situation as a result of AIDS illness or death in the family.
Soul City 7 was effective in achieving between 2% and 16% improvement on measures of stigma.
Radio, print and multi-media interventions were responsible for 5% - 8% increases in people tested for HIV in the preceding year.
Soul City print materials had content specifically focusing on reducing behaviours that put people at high risk for HIV and consequently showed impacts across all dimensions of condom use. Importantly, Soul City print was responsible for a 21% increase in condom use with a regular partner.
Self-efficacy is a key factor in preventing HIV infection was addressed by the series, though a lot of work is still required in this area. Around 50% of all respondents believed that it does no good to tell anybody of your status if you are positive.
Soul City television and print were responsible for modest improvements on this measure - 3% and 6% respectively.
Soul City was highly successful in increasing the sense of community empowerment around addressing HIV prevention. Soul City television and Soul City print were associated with a 15% and 13% improvement on this measure respectively.
About Soul City Institute
Soul City Institute is the largest social and behavioural change communication programme in Africa. As a non-profit organization, it was established in 1992.
Today it is a household name, not only because of its popular mass media interventions, but also because it spearheads ambitious new campaigns. All of its campaigns and interventions are rooted in credible research to ensure relevance and maximum impact.
The OneLove campaign is a groundbreaking cross-border health communication project working with partners in nine other southern African countries to tackle HIV and Aids. The Soul City Institute therefore comprises South African programmes as well as Regional programmes.
In addition to the OneLove campaign, the regional campaign is building capacity with partners in southern African countries, which has had significant impact and unparalleled reach.
The Phuza Wize campaign was launched in 2010 to prevent violence by making social spaces safer, and by reducing alcohol fueled violence.
In South Africa violence is related to alcohol abuse in a very high percent of cases, and it has been shown internationally that if one changes the way people drink and reduce the availability of alcohol, violence will be reduced.
The campaign is working with many partners to achieve safer social spaces, this means working with taverns and shebeens to make them safer according to a 10 point plan.
The campaign will use social mobilisation, mass media and advocacy. The media component comprises of Soul City TV series and Soul Buddyz TV, Soul City radio series, engaging with community radio stations and newspapers, booklets, etc.