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This multimedia case is set in the Southern African country of Zambia, where the rates of HIV new infections, especially among adolescent girls and young women, remain high in spite of recent government efforts. After laying out the history of AIDS in Zambia and the government efforts to improve sex education and public health, the case focuses on one particular community. Through video, we meet the various groups affected (young girls and boys, parents, teachers, health care providers, religious and traditional leaders, etc.) and hear first-hand about their experiences and beliefs. Students are thus able to immerse themselves in the reality of a community struggling with this seemingly intractable problem and consider new approaches to solving the problem.
This case was originally developed for a Harvard Kennedy School course on Adaptive Leadership. Its goal is to help students develop diagnostic tools for analyzing the complexity of change in social systems and identify possible strategies for action. By exploring the real-life messiness of a social challenge that can’t be solved through a technical solution or the intervention of a higher authority, students will gain a deeper understanding of the following:
1) the importance of looking at the broader context and of understanding the competing narratives and value systems of the different stakeholders involved, not just the people at the center of the problem;
2) the need to acknowledge the power of emotion, loyalty, and social norms, and to consider what each stakeholder stands to lose by engaging in change;
3) the process of developing possible strategies and action options that will build on informal sources of leadership and on community engagement.
The case can also be used more broadly in courses on leadership, social change, and public health to illustrate the cultural and social pressures that tend to weigh down on actors within a system and keep them from taking actions that might help the community move toward a solution.