21 Jan

Making behaviour change work in your development project

Making behaviour change work in your development project

Global development organisations, regardless of the sector they are working in, are trying to change behaviour in one way or another. They may be trying to get policymakers to design better child protection policies, trying to get a community to accept people of diverse capabilities, advocating against the Global Gag Rule or trying to get people to accept vaccines.

Behaviour change frameworks and theories are extremely powerful tools to help you design your projects and most importantly, get results! And there are great resources out there to help you get started. Regardless of the approach you take, Kok (2014) points out three make-or-breaks to look out for.

Figure out what you are really trying to change.

First of all, figure out what it is that you actually want to change by clearly defining your outcome objectives and the behaviour you want your target to do. You’ll formulate these by conducting a good needs assessment and doing formative research as well as you can within the budget and time you have. My top tip at this stage is to conduct a really good desk review before the full formative research so that you can tailor the research to knowledge gaps relevant to your project. Once the research is done, define your objectives and target behaviours based on its findings.

Choose the right behaviour change technique.

There are many types of effective behaviour change techniques, but in turn, each of these techniques is better suited for changing specific behaviours and not others. For instance, agenda setting is very effective for changing policies, but is not likely to be effective in reducing stigma. Instead, for stigma reduction, behavioural journalism is often a great intervention. Luckily, there is a comprehensive list of effective behaviour change techniques developed using the Intervention Mapping approach, available here.

Implement the project the way it was designed.

Piecemeal implementation of projects is very common in development work. A stigma-reduction project may be started without consulting all the key stakeholders. A communication strategy designed for 24 months gets implemented for 18 months. Implementing a project with adequate fidelity is one of the key determining factors for its success, since how things are done is just as important as if they are done at all.

Here’s my recommended reading for applying behaviour change theories in designing your next project:

Kok, G. (2014). A practical guide to effective behaviour change: How to apply theory-and evidence-based behavior change methods in an intervention. The European Health Psychologist, 16(5), 156-170.

Peters, G.-J. Y. (2014). A practical guide to effective behavior change: how to identify what to change in the first place. The European Health Psychologist, 16(5), 142-155.

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21 Jan

A resource guide on how behavioural science is applied in international development

A resource guide on how behavioural science is applied in international development

Right now, there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on in the world of behavioural science (BeSci) and international development. Organisations are starting to understand the value of behavioural insights and theories of behaviour for their work. I’ll be sharing another article on some of the ways in which behavioural science has helped to improve the design and implementation of development programmes.

This is a quick overview of interesting resources for NGOs to give you inspiration and hopefully pique your interest to work with BeSci in your next project, if you are not already doing so!

eMBeD

“The Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD), the World Bank’s behavioral sciences team, works closely with project teams, governments, and other partners to diagnose, design, and evaluate behaviorally informed interventions. By collaborating with a worldwide network of scientists and practitioners, the eMBeD team provides answers to important economic and social questions, and contributes to the global effort to eliminate poverty and increase equity.”

OECD

“The OECD uses an inductive approach to policy making that combines insights from psychology, cognitive science, and social science with empirically-tested results to discover how humans actually make choices.”

Compass

“Our team of experienced Social and Behavior Change (SBC) professionals identifies the latest resources to help you enhance your projects, improve your skills, and review impactful projects from around the world. And we invite you, as users, to upload your own materials to share with your colleagues.” 

B-HUB

“Innovative solutions based on how people act and make decisions in the real world are often buried in academic journals. The Behavioral Evidence Hub (B-Hub) brings them into the light of day. On the B-Hub you’ll find strategies proven to amplify the impact of programs, products, and services—and improve lives.”

UN Behavioural Insights Group

“The UN Innovation Network has set up a Behavioural Insights Group, which comprises of more than 200 members from across 40+ UN Entities and 60 countries. The Group promotes awareness and supports behavioural insights work at the UN; provides learning opportunities about BI approaches and methods; and brings views and approaches from outside to the UN. The UN BI Group collaborates with academics in the behavioural sciences and organisations specialising in designing and implementing behaviourally-informed projects.”

The Communication Initiative Network

“The Communication Initiative Network convenes the communication and media development, social and behavioural change community for more effective local, national, and international development action.”

Recommended reading:

Carter, B. (2017). Using Behavioural Insights to Address Complex Development Challenges. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.

Shankar, M. & Foster, L. (2016). Behavioural insights at the United Nations. Achieving Agenda 2030. United Nations.

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21 Jan

5 awesome things about the Behavioural Drivers Model!

5 awesome things about the Behavioural Drivers Model!

Current social and behaviour change (SBC) projects are sometimes criticised for being too simplistic, not taking into consideration complex behavioural drivers. Instead of diligently identifying behavioural determinants, many SBC projects see large-scale or media-oriented campaigns as the end-all of SBC, with the expectation that communication activities alone will impact long-term behaviour change and even adoption of new behaviours.

Recognising these shortcomings, UNICEF published the Behavioural Drivers Model (BDM), a framework specifically designed for SBC programmes. Drawing on concepts and learning from relevant theories, from, among others, psychology and sociology, the framework offers much-needed practical guidance on how to apply behavioural science principles and methods to international development projects.

Here are five things that I find pretty awesome about BDM.

1. Relevant determinants from 25 theories.

A central feature of designing development projects, and specifically SBC projects, is the need to include insights from several theories, which at times requires creating a new model for a project. This causes uncertainty about the way specific constructs and determinants are applied, especially to a field that may not have benefited much from behavioural science (for example, migration). Moreover, it is not particularly good practice to hypothesise about how different determinants work on influencing each other for each new project, without the model having been vetted by experts.

BDM offers a tool that builds on the socio-ecological model and allows us to explore factors that are more pertinent to our project and leave out those that may not be. As in the image above, BDM identified how different determinants affect each other and at which stage of the process.

2. More than 130 behavioural drivers to explore.

BDM unpacks over 130 behavioural drivers that are summarised neatly in the categories in the diagram above. This is very useful because most behaviours we are dealing with in international development require intervention at multiple levels. BDM offers a succinct description of each behavioural driver and a thorough reference list to explore specific behavioural determinants for a more in-depth analysis.

3. A list of evidence-based behaviour change methods.

In another article, I talk about some of the most common pitfalls of designing and implementing behaviour change projects. One of these pitfalls is not choosing the right behaviour change method for the behavioural determinant you are looking to change, as well as taking into consideration the conditions under which the method will work.

BDM offers a list of evidence-based behaviour change methods for all the categories of behaviour change in the diagram above. This makes it easy to choose and apply the appropriate behaviour change method for each determinant.

4. A method to auto-generate a monitoring and evaluation framework.

As one develops their SBC strategy, BDM offers linkages to the various parts of a monitoring and evaluation framework. This way, one does not miss out on the crucial steps of assessing how different aspects of the SBC strategy are going to be measured, whether the tools to measure them are available, and if not, how and when they will be developed.

5. BDM is a living tool.

Rigid tools do not serve the nature of international development projects well. BDM is a tool that will get better as it is implemented in different fields and feedback is shared. It offers the opportunity to build learning on how it is applied in different fields and what behavioural determinants were identified and targeted under different contexts. If BDM is consistently used across organisations and projects, we have a good opportunity to get some solid data on what types of SBC strategies work in different sectors and under what conditions.

A bonus thing I like about the BDM is the thorough research behind the document and the fact that it refers to using an Intervention Mapping approach, which I think is absolutely crucial!

Have you worked with BDM? Share your experience in the comments!

Source:

Petit, V. (2019). The Behavioural Drivers Model: A Conceptual Framework for Social and Behaviour Change Programming. UNICEF.

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21 Jan

Leveraging social neuroscience in development projects

Leveraging social neuroscience in development projects

Social neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that studies how our brain reacts under various social interactions. In this piece, I briefly outline why understanding social neuroscience will greatly improve the way in which we approach the design of projects and help us better anticipate how people may react to the projects and interventions we design.

Competing systems

You might have heard of ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’, sometimes referred to as fast and slow thinking. System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration (Kahneman, 2012).

Just as there is evidence from cognitive psychology of these two systems, so is there evidence from neuroscience of the existence of two systems: one impulsive and fast-acting and another which is more controlled and slow-acting. The first system often dictates how we interact with others in daily life, with its vigilant avoid/approach conditioning (Chein et al., 2011).

A social brain

The SCARF model simplifies and summarises the most important things we need to understand about System 1 in order to design contexts that help us to communicate effectively and smoothly (Rock, 2008).

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Because our survival depends on our social interactions, our need for these five things is as basic as our need for food and water.

Status focuses on our need for social standing, the need to be recognised, seen and valued. Certainty is about our need to know what will happen next and to feel secure. Autonomy refers to our need to feel that we made a decision freely. Relatedness is about the need to feel part of a group. Fairness is about the perception that the rules that apply to us apply to others.

Our brain’s sensitivity to our social environment is so strong that research shows that our brain processes social pain in the same way as physical pain (Eisenberger, 2013), as illustrated in the image below (Rock, n.d.)

Implications for programming

The fact that we share a need for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness and that a lack of these triggers a pain sensation in us has some interesting implications for how we design development projects.

Essentially, we can leverage our capacity for empathy, which is governed by our brain’s mentalising system, to a far greater extent. Mentalising refers to our ability to read the mental states of others, effectively putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Let’s take the example of stigma reduction, and let’s say that we want to design a project that will prompt adolescents to be more empathic and less stigmatising to peers with a health condition. Masten et al., 2010 showed that prosocial behaviour can be promoted in adolescents by exposing them to simulations of situations where peers were subjected to social exclusion. The simulations led the adolescents to write empathic supportive messages to the peers they felt were wronged.

We see similar patterns when it comes to racial bias and discrimination. Our reaction to a member of an outgroup is very fast and reflexive (Azab, 2016). So, if we want to reconcile members of two clashing communities, we need to design projects that will build relatedness, certainty and fairness.

What this tells us is that solely relying on appealing to the rational part of our brain, System 2, with rational arguments alone is likely to be far less effective because it will not trigger the mentalising system. We need to use our innate and powerful capacity for empathy to design and execute better projects.

Azab, M. (2016). Why Is It Impossible to Not Judge People ? Psychology Today, 1–5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201610/why-is-it-impossible-not-judge-people

Chein, J. M., Albert, D., O’Brien, L., Uckert, K., & Steinberg, L. (2011). Peers increase adolescent risk taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, 14(2), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01035.x

Eisenberger, N. I. (2013). The neural bases of social pain: Evidence for shared representations with physical pain. Psychosomatic Medicine, 74(2), 126–135. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182464dd1.The

Kahneman, D. (2012). Of 2 Minds: How Fast and Slow Thinking Shape Perception and Choice. Scientific American, 9, 1–15. https://bit.ly/2QQIjoW

Masten, C. L., Eisenberger, N. I., Pfeifer, J. H., & Dapretto, M. (2010). Witnessing peer rejection during early adolescence : Neural correlates of empathy for experiences of social exclusion. 5, 496–507. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470919.2010.490673

Rock, D. (n.d.). Managing with the Brain in Mind. https://www.oxfordleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/OL-Managing-with-the-Brain-in-Mind-2019.pdf

Rock, D. (2008). SCARF : a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others SCARF : a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others. NeuroLeadership.

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