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Best Laid PlansCultural Entropy and the Unraveling of Aids Media Campaigns$
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Terence E. McDonnell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226382012

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226382296.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

“Best” Practices

“Best” Practices

(p.63) 3 “Best” Practices
Best Laid Plans

Terence E. McDonnell

University of Chicago Press

AIDS organizations do not have good measures of the outcomes they want to engender. Without compelling evidence that campaigns are working, organizations invested procedures that purport to make effective campaigns. These procedures, circulated by “best practice reports,” give designers tools to impose order on this complex cultural environment. Through a process of institutional isomorphism, AIDS organizations globally have converged around these best practices, which give organizations a measure of accountability and legitimacy to international donors. Designers on the ground appreciate this move to best practices like making evidence-based campaigns and securing the support of cultural stakeholders. Following best practices gives them confidence that they can to make the best possible campaign and faith that they can predictably shape how citizens understand and act in response to HIV. The global convergence around these best practices has negative consequences as they increase cultural entropy. Investing so heavily in the design process, with a commitment to making one perfect campaign, has left AIDS organizations open to blind spots. For instance, they mostly forego evaluation and miss the ways their campaigns are misinterpreted. By putting their eggs all in one basket, one widespread and unforeseen disruption undermines years of work.

Keywords:   best practices, institutional isomorphism, accountability, legitimacy, evidence-based design, measurement, cultural stakeholders

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