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Storytelling for Social Change: Leveraging Documentary and Comedy for Public Engagement in Global Poverty

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Narrative is essential for public engagement with global poverty. Stand Up Planet, a documentary about global development, was produced to evaluate the effects of a little‐utilized nonfiction comedy narrative. Using a pretest–posttest experimental design, this study examines shifts in U.S. audience engagement with global poverty after watching Stand Up Planet, compared with a somber documentary, The End Game. Both documentaries increased awareness of global poverty, support for government aid, knowledge, and intended actions. However, Stand Up Planet produced significantly larger gains in awareness, knowledge, and actions; these effects were mediated by the narrative's relatability, positive emotions, and entertainment value. The End Game's effects were mediated by narrative transportation and negative emotions. Implications for narrative in social change campaigns are discussed.
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Keywords: Comedy; Documentary; Emotion; Entertainment; Global Development; Narrative Engagement; Social Change

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2017

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