WHAT WE DO
Television and digital content have taken the world by storm: TV shows are broadcasting to millions of people, reaching remote areas in many different languages, all day and night. Unfortunately, most of them are not designed to make a significant difference in people’s lives.
At Bamyan Media, we asked why not? Why not leverage the power and scale of this dramatic medium to change people’s lives for the better? This quest has developed into an innovative business model and process for creating content that effectively galvanizes a multi-stakeholder response to complex issues such as wide-scale youth unemployment, underage marriage, climate change, and maternal health.
One of the best-known tales of that incomparably wise character of Afghan folklore, Mulla Nasruddin, concerns his life as a smuggler. For years, the Mulla was known for his habit of crossing the Afghan border with nothing but a straw-laden donkey. Asked by customs officers whether he had anything to declare, the answer was always the same: "nothing but straw." A search always followed; but no matter how hard the officials prodded and probed the donkey's load, no contraband was ever found.
Years later, the now-retired chief of customs happens to meet the Mulla in a teahouse. "All those years ago," he tells Nasruddin, "we knew you were up to something, but we never found anything. Since we are both old men now, can you tell me what it was you were smuggling?"
"Donkeys!" comes the answer.
To make Television, both a recognizable form and a message or meaning are required. The straw is the form; the thing that is most obvious. The donkey is the meaning, and the real object of the smuggler's efforts. Both must be led across the border - that is, into the field of perception of the viewer. What happens next depends on the viewer and their circumstances, and what he or she is able to do with the smuggled goods.
When we are asked what we do, we say "TV PRODUCTION" but what we are really thinking is: "DONKEY SMUGGLING".
The three key steps to our model, and an example of how we work with different partners to empower women and support job creation in the Middle East
1. DESIGN FOR IMPACT
Using a highly participatory lab process we co-create new TV formats around a compelling social issue, working with experts from government, the private sector and civil society in order to design for systemic impact.
We also include feedback from our target audience and test prototypes online and through focus-group research to ensure a show is both entertaining and achieves specific behavior change objectives.
2. CREATE A NEW STORY
At Bamyan we believe people are guided by the stories they have internalized. To have an impact, we believe a story needs to be:
» Wildly popular, resonant, authentic, and locally rooted.
» Carefully researched to offer real-world solutions to critical difficulties.
» Produced to the highest quality.
» Distributed via multiple platforms to effectively reach the largest audience.
We also create community and engage our audience online and via sms so viewers can participate in the outcomes and celebrate new heroes.
3. SPARK A MOVEMENT
All our programs are linked to a groundswell of partners, outreach events, press and online content that propels viewers to get up from watching TV and make a change.
Working closely with partners who are focused on specific issues, we facilitate broader access to their resources, extending our program impact from spreading ideas to taking action. We track the use of online resources and participation in partner led networking, training, and other local events, and follow our target audience as they acquire the tools to go from being inspired to actually starting a business and creating measurable change. The initial findings from our research in Egypt suggest the approach is both cost effective and scaleable.
1. Sponsors and TV Networks
We work with strategically chosen sponsors such as a bank or telecom operator, or for example Samsung in the Middle East, to integrate their brand and demonstrate products being used in the TV show and enabling entrepreneurs. Our sponsors and TV Networks must value the additional benefits that accrue from having a social impact, and pay a premium so we can make shows that are both entertaining and educational. The commercial and ratings success of The Project in Egypt is what allowed us to partner with Banijay International to adapt and distribute the format to TV networks globally.
2. Ecosystem Partners
We enable the whole entrepreneurial support ecosystem to massively increase reach and diversity of participants. The on-air promotion and "edutainment" content creates awareness of new solutions and opportunities and drives traffic to on-line and on-the-ground outreach activities. These events and the TV show web site, social media and sms messaging are all designed to connect viewers to each other and practical resources available from local partners, for example for micro-loans, training, mentorship, incubation, and prizes. In Egypt, Bamyan partnered with over 40 local and international NGOs providing support services for entrepreneurs and connected more than 36,000 new applicants to their programs.
3. Foundations and Donors
We use donor funding to design new formats and scale the model in new territories. With support from USAID we designed The Project to address demand-side barriers to achieving inclusive, broad based economic growth in the MENA region. Extensive research demonstrates that because mental models and attitudes have a significant impact on development outcomes, mass communications can help to achieve development goals. The initial findings from a World Bank and ILO funded randomized evaluation of impact in Egypt confirm that, for example: “The TV show had a significant impact on viewers’ attitudes…related to the place of women in the labor market. In particular, viewers tend to declare women more competent to run a business”.
The Project - El Mashroua was broadcast in Egypt in 2014 on the third largest country Network, El Nahar. It built up an audience of 4-6 million viewers per episode and over 1 million followers on social media, creating the largest online community of aspiring entrepreneurs in the Middle East. It achieved higher ratings than the international hit Dancing with the Stars,and was sponsored by Samsung, Google, and Volkswagen.
A staggering 55% of youth are unemployed in Egypt, and the rate for young women is almost double that of young men. El Mashroua was designed to change attitudes to women working and address demand-side barriers faced by existing programs aimed at stimulating more inclusive economic growth. It works by shifting mindsets and inspiring young people to reach out and connect to each other and to locally available resources that provide support and finance for aspiring entrepreneurs.
MORE THAN JUST TV
The Project uses prime-time television to build a critical mass of online followers, connecting aspiring entrepreneurs to each other and to practical tools and resources via social media, mobile engagement and grassroots outreach. During its first season in Egypt, we partnered with over 40 organizations in the ecosystem and connected 36,000 new applicants to programs offering training, mentoring, finance, and other support and services they need to succeed.
The ILO, France's ENSAE and MIT University’s JPAL are collaborating to conduct a long-term Randomized Control Trial on the impact of El Mashroua in Egypt on attitudes, knowledge and skills, and changes in behavior. Initial findings suggest that “The TV show had a significant impact on viewers’ opinions [...] of women in the labor market. In particular, viewers tend to declare women more competent to run a business.” This shift in attitudes of viewers that watched at least one episode of the show conservatively translates into changing 1 million mindsets. Other findings will be published shortly. Download the ILO's report:
SCALING THE PROJECT
Our goal now is to scale the impact of The Project across the Arab world by broadcasting the show on a major pan-Arab satellite channel in the region targeting women and youth, to reach over 77% of households from Morocco to Iraq. We have also partnered with Banijay International, the world’s third largest TV producer, to adapt and distribute The Project with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship for European audiences under the working title Game-Changers, and Start-Up in France.
OUR PROGRAMS SHOWCASE THE DRAMA OF PEOPLE LIVING THROUGH REAL CHALLENGES DISCOVERING SOLUTIONS TO THE MOST CRITICAL ISSUES OF OUR TIME
EL MASHROUA EL ARABI
The Pan-Arab version of The Project.
A new season of The Project in development for a satellite TV Network reaching an audience of
100 million+ across the Arab world. 13x1hr episodes.
EL MASHROUA EGYPT
The Project: a Reality TV competition for business and social entrepreneurs.
The Series debuted in January 2014 on Al Nahar, a leading Egyptian TV Network and has become one of the most popular shows in Egypt with an average episode viewership of 4 million people. The digital platform and local events created a following of 1 million participants, linking 40,000 viewers to tools and resources such as finance, training, mentorship, incubation, and networking opportunities.
Start-Up or Game-changers; developed in France with Banijay.
A new adaptation of The Project for a European audience with a focus on democratizing entrepreneurship and helping make new tools such as crowd-funding and other local resources more widely understood and accessible to youth from all segments of society. 10x1hr episodes.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER?
A new docudrama series currently in development.
Happily Ever After? is a docudrama series that chronicles the lives of young girls engaged to be married. The show explores the controversial questions at the heart of the age-old practice of young marriage, where viewers are left to consider for themselves how to best make empowering decisions, and marry when girls are physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers so that they can truly live happily ever after. Currently in development.
Segmented talk show anchored by a panel of young girls
Girl Talk is a multimedia communications platform centered around the lives of a dynamic group of young girls with strong characters who inspire their viewers to live their best life... At the center is the Girl Talk Variety TV Talk Show which is led by young, charismatic hosts who will cover a variety of exciting issues ranging from inspiring stories to scandalous taboos, celebrity entertainment, beauty, health, relationships and empowerment. Currently in development for a major pan-Arab channel.
Dream & Achieve (Fekr wa Tallosh)
A Series about Afghan entrepreneurs rebuilding their country.
The series debuted in Afghanistan in 2009, where it became the #1 surprise hit of the season watched by an estimated 7 million viewers. The show turned the spotlight in Afghanistan to an alternative development paradigm — spreading the belief that it is Afghan entrepreneurs who will ultimately make the long-lasting change their country needs. Anna Elliot developed the program which was produced and broadcast by Tolo TV. 12x1hr. episodes.
Reality TV show stirs business spirit in Afghanistan
Faizulhaq Moshkani holds a one million Afghani ($20,000) prize after coming first in a reality TV show in Kabul August 10, 2008. A reality TV show broadcast in Afghanistan has encouraged Afghans to start their own enterprises, stirring entrepreneurial spirits in a country...
Evaluating the Effects of Entrepreneurship Edutainment in Egypt
Authored by Bruno Crépon, Drew Gardiner, Bastien Michel, Marwa Moaz, and William Parienté, this paper Evaluating the Effects of Entrepreneurship Edutainment in Egypt presents the baseline analysis of the impact evaluation of a youth entrepreneurship reality TV show...
En Egypte, téléréalité rime avec création d'entreprise
Une société de production a lancé une émission de téléréalité pour encourager les jeunes entrepreneurs égyptiens. Les émissions de téléréalité semblent parfois rivaliser d'efforts pour décrocher la palme du pire. Une Américaine tente d'inverser la tendance...
SOME OF THE TEAM...
We are a hybrid social enterprise, registered in the US as a 501c3 Corporation. We are currently based in Cairo Paris and Istanbul but we go where the work takes us. If you believe in the power of ideas to change the world...
Get in touch and join the team!
Marwa brings more than ten years of experience as a leader and manager of regional and country-level development programs. As COO Marwa oversees finance, business development, recruiting, international distribution and impact measurement and reporting. Her vision is to create a pioneering world-class social enterprise that demonstrates how mainstream media can deliver positive behavior change. Marwa has a BA degree from GWU and a Masters from Tufts University.
CEO and Executive Producer
While attending Hampshire College, Anna spent her final year in Afghanistan, where she raised public and private sector funding to create and produce "Dream and Achieve". Anna then founded Bamyan Media to replicate the model in other parts of the world, and has been recognized as an Echoing Green fellow and a Rainer Arnhold fellow. Anna oversees Bamyan's steady progress and is the creative force behind the development of our new formats.
Head of Production El Mashroua
Tamer has over 12 years of experience working in film and television in Egypt and the Middle East. He is passionate about creating media that will have a social impact. For the United Nations Tamer created campaigns dealing with human rights, gender equality and child abuse. His work has been screened at numerous international film festivals and featured on TV channels including Al-Jazeera, Al Nahar, BBC, and MBC.
Dalia is responsible for developing Bamyan's relationships with the key players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Dalia has long been interested in education prior to joining Bamyan, she was the President of AIESEC Egypt in 2008. Dalia holds a Masters in Education from Harvard University where she conducted research on the ways in which television can be used to promote social entrepreneurship.
Research and Impact
Sarah is in charge of supporting the research, impact development, and monitoring and evaluation of our programming. Prior to joining Bamyan, she worked at the Grassroots Development Laboratory in Bagar, India, and served as the Global Diaspora Assistant for Ashoka Arab World in Cairo. She holds a BA in Political Science and Consumer Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
An experienced development expert and social entrepreneur, David has led teams working for USAID, the World Bank and the UN on issues such as economic growth, social enterprise and sustainable development. As an entrepreneur David founded business ventures in Europe and the United States, including USAssist and Direct Hit, a successful search engine that was acquired by Ask.com
Gabriel is responsible for developing our social media engagement. Previously, Gabriel worked for Ashoka Arab World as the Media & Marketing Manager, and also conducted research on sustainable job creation models in Bogotá, Colombia. Gabriel holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan and is also the founder and curator of a social entrepreneurship news blog, SocEntHolla.
Gabrielle is responsible for developing adaptations of our formats for different markets. Working closely with Banijay International and ecosystem partners in France, Gabrielle is leading the development of Start-Up for distribution in France and across Europe.
Highly creative but slightly cynical, with a lot of experience selling (and consuming) Danish ice cream and beer... Olga is a talented Scandinavian graphic designer that is constantly improving the quality of our presentations and online graphics.