My efforts were reward in an unexpected way. The USAID Director, Pam White, mentioned that the AIDS program was opening a new position. She said several people in Mission leadership suggested I should apply. This was a real US employee position, not an EFM slot. It came with significant program responsibilities and a salary to match. The job came out as a ‘social marketing’ position, so I decided to re-invent myself. I restructured my experience to make myself look qualified. I managed to land the position with only minor stretches of the truth. The agency team said Pam thought they were being too flat-footed in their communications effort. They said she was insistent that billboards saying ‘use condoms’ would never do the trick. “Convincing people to buy something they don’t think they need isn’t new…we need a Madison Avenue approach. Who here handles that?” she’d demand. They’d sheepishly point at me. Nancy knew I was a little out of my league with the new job. She decided to help by sending me a review of a new book called ‘Made to Stick’. Written by Dan and Chip Heath, it zeroes in on what makes certain ideas memorable. It is an elaboration of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘sticky idea’ principle from his book ‘The Tipping Point’. Knowing I would benefit from reading it, she added it to my Christmas list. I read the book the moment it came out. I liked it so much I bought eight more copies to spread around my team. I also left one on Pam’s desk with a note saying it was a great read. Within the hour, Pam came by my cube holding the book and saying, “Thanks but I’ve read a million of these.” She tried to give it back but I wouldn’t take it. “Just read the first chapter,” I implored. First thing the following morning she was back at my desk. “I couldn’t put it down,” she said. “I read it straight through last night.” Then she tapped the cover and said, “Get these guys on the phone.” I was like ‘What? Get these guys on the phone’? But then I thought, ‘I guess I could try.’ I wrote them a brief email describing what we were doing to address AIDS in Tanzania. I mentioned that I liked the book so much I bought a bunch of copies and passed them out. Chip wrote back almost immediately saying, “Wow, you’re the first person we’ve heard from. To tell you the truth, we didn’t even know it had been released.” Per Pam’s insistence, I asked them if we could have a call. They immediately agreed. As usual, Pam was on a roll. On the first call she said there was nothing sticky about the AIDS messaging in Tanzania. Then she said we needed their professional help…oh yeah, but we couldn’t pay. Then she asked if they’d ever been on a safari. They said no, but they’d always wanted to. She said, “Well what if we could pay to get you here and pay your lodging. Would you work a week or two for free?” She added, “I guarantee Mike will take you on safari over the weekend.” After a bit of hemming and hawing, the brothers both agreed. By the time they arrived a few weeks later they already had an idea for their approach. They’d done a lot of home work and we’d had a lot of calls. They honed in on the problem of AIDS spreading through ‘inter-generational sex’. That is, older men sleeping with school girls. The problem was both endemic and tolerated in Tanzania. Dan Heath explained his idea for creating change through negative social norms. He suggested we shame the bad behavior using humor. He proposed a strategy. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could make older men chasing young girls the butt of jokes? Their solution was ingenious. We assembled a group of local talent. The Heath’s introduced the technical approach. Then the locals created a culturally appropriate lampoon about a character named ‘Fataki’. Well, actually, I should let them tell it. I just found a narrative of a segment that aired on the PBS News Hour three months after their visit. I include the transcript here: source: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa-july-dec07-aids_11-30/ JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, tackling AIDS through prevention. On the eve of World AIDS Day, President Bush asked for more money today to help fight AIDS. A key part of that is prevention. The 10 minute feature ends with this: SUSAN DENTZER (Speaking to the viewers): The U.S. program’s support of HIV-fighting efforts like these are likely to get a close look soon in Washington. The original five-year program was passed in 2003, but to continue beyond 2008 it will have to be extended by Congress. And experts say that, in the future, the program will have to focus more than ever on areas like prevention. Global AIDS coordinator Dybul told us that means thinking of new ways to reach young people around the world. MARK DYBUL: There are organizations in the private sector that live and die on whether or not they change a young kid’s behavior, whether it’s going to a movie or drinking a certain soda or buying a certain toy. We need to take that type of messaging, that type of 21st-century approach. SUSAN DENTZER: We got a glimpse of that future recently in this impromptu recording studio in Dar-es-Salaam. A group of Tanzanian actors was taping an anti-HIV radio spot. The radio spot was the brainchild of a Stanford Business School professor, Chip Heath. He was brought over by the U.S. Global AIDS Program to help craft a new HIV prevention campaign. CHIP HEATH, Stanford University: One of the important problems in Tanzania is intergenerational transmission of AIDS. You get older, wealthy men picking up young women and infecting them with AIDS, because poverty is such an issue that the young women are seduced by these older, wealthier, more distinguished men. SUSAN DENTZER: So Heath told us he and his colleagues invented the character Fataki, or Swahili for explosion, to try to create an influential negative cultural stereotype. CHIP HEATH: Fataki is this lecherous character that’s always trying to pick up women in some form. He’s wealthy. He’s smooth. But in every case, when he tries to pick up a young woman, there will be a friend in the positive messages that intervenes and says, “Don’t you know that guy? His wife died of AIDS.” And then they start running away, and Fataki is going, “Hey, wait, baby, what’s wrong?” The announcer comes on and says, “Don’t let your friends fall prey to Fataki.” And what we’re hoping is that it’s going to become a catchphrase. “He’s such a Fataki. You know, he’s such a lecher.” Three months after that program aired, Congress passed the PEPFAR Reauthorization bill and funded it at $50 billion over five years. That amount was sixty percent higher than the original amount and a full $20 billion more than the president requested in his budget. Two years after that, a research team found that ‘Fataki’ was now a regularly used Swahili term which connoted a lecherous man preying on young woman. The Heath brothers went on to write another best-seller. This one is called “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard”. The book provides a blueprint for creating impactful change. It ranges in scope from small organizational change to changes at the social order level. The book ends by using Fatiki as one of several examples of large social change. The Heath brothers graciously credit Pam and me with the work. In truth is was all them.