Sabido Methodology – Background
The Sabido Method is a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values.
Named after the pioneer in application of this entertainment-education strategy, Miguel Sabido, the Sabido Method is based on character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with — some good, some not so good — and follow as they evolve and change. Sabido developed this methodology when he was Vice President for Research at Televisa in Mexico in the 1970s.
Change is the key to the Sabido methodology. Characters may begin the series exhibiting the antithesis of the values being taught, but through interaction with other characters, twists and turns in the plot, and sometimes even outside intervention, come to see the value of the program’s underlying message.
This is of course the classic literary device of character growth, but Miguel Sabido developed the process in detail for television in a way that enabled it to tackle the most sensitive of subjects — sex, abortion, family planning, AIDS — in a non-threatening and even enlightening manner. By transmitting values through the growth and development of characters, the Sabido Method manages to simultaneously attract large and faithful audiences and stimulate thoughtful discussions. PMC President Bill Ryerson and Honorary Chair David Poindexter worked with Sabido for decades learning and applying the Sabido Method to programming throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
When Sabido developed his methodology in the 1970′s, he was pioneering in a new pro-social communication model, using telenovelas to promote literacy, family planning and other social development goals. The first novella using the Sabido Method to promote family planning, was Acompaname (“Accompany Me”). Acompaname showed in dramatic terms over the course of the nine-month series the personal benefits of planning one’s family, by focusing on the issue of family harmony. The results of Acompaname, as reported by the Mexican government’s national population council (CONAPO), were:
Phone calls to the CONAPO requesting family planning information increased from zero to an average of 500 a month. Many people calling mentioned that they were encouraged to do so by the telenovela.
More than 2,000 women registered as voluntary workers in the national program of family planning. This was an idea suggested in the telenovela.
Contraceptive sales increased 23% in one year, compared to a seven percent increase the preceding year.
More than 560,000 women enrolled in family planning clinics, an increase of 33% (compared to a 1% decrease the previous year).
Sabido developed five additional social content telenovelas, which were all broadcast on Televisa: Vamos Juntos (”We Go Together”), Caminemos (”Let’s Walk”), Nosotros las Mujeres (”We the Women”), Por Amor (”For Love”), and Los Hijos de Nadie (”Nobody’s Children”).
During the decade 1977 to 1986, when these Mexican soap operas were on the air, the country experienced a 34% decline in its population growth rate. As a result, in May 1986, the United Nations Population Prize was presented to Mexico as the foremost population success story in the world.
Thomas Donnelly, then with USAID in Mexico, wrote,
“Throughout Mexico, wherever one travels, when people are asked where they heard about family planning, or what made them decide to practice family planning, the response is universally attributed to one of the soap operas that Televisa has done. …The Televisa family planning soap operas have made the single most powerful contribution to the Mexican population success story.”