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