Theatre for Good Governance

The principles of good governance are participation, transparency, responsive representation and accountability. Genuine ‘participation’ and ‘accountability’ are difficult to achieve even the most stable environments; in the challenging, fractured contexts in which we work, it can only be achieved through locally driven, culturally appropriate action, that navigates power dynamics with sensitivity.

“Mutu umodzi susenza denga” One head does not carry the roof” Chinyanja proverb, Malawi / Zambia

Our Good Governance work takes many forms. We have used creativity to workshop with government officials, counsellors and farmers in southern Africa; toured forum theatre productions to different target audiences; and devised and performed plays to wide audiences on matters national interest.  Our projects have ranged from fundamental explorations of the nature of power and meaning of democracy, to public discussion on the mechanics of delivering a service such as water between water users, service providers and government officials?

Examples of Arts for Action Good Governance work:

  • Radio and community theatre for Decentralisation and democratisation in Malawi
  • Using arts and communication to improve Local Governance in Zimbabwe
  • Public discussion on the legal and political implications of the food crisis in Malawi
  • National tour of performances and workshops

Training in applying theatre and communication to improve governance includes interrogating good governance principles; approaches for engaging local and national leadership; how to ambush or integrate the target audience; how to use alienation effectively; how to bring target audiences into the process and why this is valuable; designing a “Good Governance” intervention; structuring community dialogue into theatre games and production; Constructing narratives to explore for example, principles of power, decision making processes, engagement, disempowerment, disenfranchisement, rights, vigilance, accountability; making theatre about specific issues eg: voting, corruption, leadership, service delivery.

Theatre for Decision Makers

Taking the people’s voice to leaders….  From protest to engagement… providing platforms for dialogue between differing positions…

Popular theatre, and many forms of theatre for development have traditionally cantered on change mechanisms at community level – indeed, ‘for the people, with the people or by the people’ but predominately concerning a ‘change in behaviour’ amongst citizens.  Arts for Action firmly believes in the power of ownership in the creative and change process, and production by the citizenry, the community, is crucial. That said, less communication initiatives channel messages in the direction of policy and decision takers.

Arts for Action strives uses a holistic approach that involves all stakeholders from the ‘grassroots’ to the most powerful decisions makers. We firmly believe that this is necessary to develop interventions that are both relevant and implementable. Our Theatre for Decision Makers programme brings grassroots voices to groups and individuals who influence and make policy decision.

‘Theatre for Decision Makers’ was conceived and developed in Malawi as a response to the food crisis in 2002 . The dominant narrative at the time supported the lie that 40,000 people died because Malawi suffered a food shortage caused by drought and flooding. In fact there were no actual shortages. Rather political and economic interest conspired to stock pile maize meant for storage in the nation’s grain reserves, and release it back on the market at inflated prices.


We offer bespoke courses and workshops in how to engage decision-makers through theatre. Training incorporates the history of political theatre in development contexts, protest theatre, analysis of decision-maker behaviour in relation to movements for change, strategies for engaging decision-makers, developing partnerships, working within funding frameworks, narrative provocation , facilitation, research and evaluation, ripple effects , affecting public discourse.

Training is tailor-made with partners and expert advice can be provided in this area on request.

Chiswe chimodzi sichiumba chulu” One termite does not mould an ant-hill, Chinyanya proverb. Malawi / Zambia

Theatre for Justice

We work extensively with formal and informal legal structures and people either in contact with legal or penal institutions or in need of help exercising their rights,  to improve Access to Justice in specific contexts and protect human rights.

What do people do when something goes wrong? How is ‘crime’ understood and handled in communities who lack access to legal services? How do people handle serious disputes in the absence of a neutral arbitrator? We all need a basic understanding of the laws designed to protect us, and a knowledge of justice principles that enable us to claim our rights – especially to equality and fairness.

Building legal knowledge amongst populations is fundamental to improving access to justice.  Communication  is often overlooked or tacked on in development programming – Arts for Action, and our partner The Governance and Justice Group, believe that quality communication, education and empowerment are integral to improving rule of law.  Access to Justice programming that does not invest in communication and outreach will fail to affect change amongst the people it wishes to reach.

We work with communities to identify barriers to accessing legal rights in their specific contexts, and together craft communication and empowerment strategies to address these. We work to bridge gaps between decision makers, services providers and the communities they serve using interactive theatre to bring together – often for the first time – these different perspectives.

Examples of theatre for justice programmes:

–       Access to Justice Programme South Sudan

–       Social Justice in Myanmar

–       Paralegals in Malawi

–       Paralegals in Kenya

–       Paralegals in Bangladesh

–       Restorative Justice in Bangladesh

–       Rehabilitation in Bangladesh

        Rohingya refugees access to justice in Bangladesh 

“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., A Testament of Hope

Other programmes:

o     Theatre for conflict resolution and peace

o     Theatre for building trust & relations

o     Theatre for women’s rights

o     Theatre for child rights

o     Theatre for HIV & AIDS prevention

o     Theatre for Malaria prevention

o     Theatre for hygiene and sanitation

o     Theatre for environmental health

o     Community Arts Club facilitating change

Health and sanitation

o   Theatre for HIV AIDS awareness and prevention in Southern Africa

o     Theatre for Malaria prevention

o     Theatre for hygiene and sanitation in Zimbabwe

o     Theatre for hygiene and sanitation in Bangladesh