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Planet DIVOC-91 makes a difference

  • Posted by Annie,
  • Deputy Director,
  • in Listen up,
  • July '21

The project brought together diverse perspectives and experiences of the pandemic and enabled young adults to be heard by those involved in research and policy.

Young adults from India, South Africa and the UK, researchers, experts, comic writers and artists have been working together over the last year to make sense of the pandemic through comics. Their collective effort has resulted in a nine chapter webcomic aimed at 16-25 year olds, which has been viewed over 21,000 times.

The sci-fi satire about a pandemic follows the experiences of Sanda (female, 23) and Champo (non-binary, 19), who are siblings from Birmingham, UK and are mixed race Burmese/Caribbean. They find themselves transported to an alien planet – Planet DIVOC-91 – along with other young people when Earth is threatened. On the planet the siblings have to work to discover the cause of a virus affecting alien children, along with misinformation being spread about humans and confronting longstanding issues between them.

A core group of 45 young adults took part in a wide range of activities as as part of the project. They interviewed over thirty scientists from countries around the world and collaborated with writers and artists to shape the webcomic storylines. They also developed their own writing and production skills, visit Planet-DIVOC-91 to see their articles, films and artwork

Most participants had limited experience of taking part in conversations about research or activism but have now created their own 10 point Manifesto focusing on mental health, equity & stigma and misinformation.

The manifesto expresses points of ACTION we want to see including ideas about how we can collaborate with researchers and policymakers to make this change.

—Planet DIVOC-91 participants

The webcomic has been translated into Hindi and Xhosa print versions in order to be more accessible to readers in India and South Africa. Young people who read the comic reported that they could relate to the stories and liked the variety of the artwork.

My time with planet DIVOC-91 has been a great opportunity to connect with people who occupy systems that mostly influence systematic changes that affect the lives of many people in great ways. I come from a community where many offspring of deliberate historical and existing systematic deprivations exist. I mean poverty, crime, lack of direction and purpose alongside many social ills. I say this in the light that research can influence policy that in turn trickles down to me as a citizen and many other people.

—Participant, South Africa

In the UK the project was produced by Vocal and Sarah Kenney from Wowbagger Productions in association with the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS). With funding from Wellcome the project extended to India, led by Sarah Iqbal (DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance), and South Africa, led by Nabeel Petersen (Interfer). Anita Shervington (BLAST Fest) led on the Power, Influence and Change workstream. Ondata Research conducted the evaluation.