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behavior change

What the HIV prevention gel trial failure implies for trials in economics

Berk Ozler's picture

For the World AIDS Day, there is a sign at the World Bank that states that taking ARVs reduces rate of HIV transmission by 96%. If this was last year, a sign somewhere may well have read “A cheap microbicidal gel that women can use up to 12 hours before sexual intercourse reduces HIV infection risk by more than half – when used consistently.” Well, sadly, it turns out, so much for that.

Community Leaders as Social Change Spearheaders

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Another interesting response to Paolo's post The Role of Social Norms in Achieving Behaviour Change:

"Being a development communication practitioner, I firmly believe that one has to tackle the shackles of harmful social norms from inside. That is, be part of the society, community where it exists, find the root cause, find the positive deviant, work with the deviant to understand what triggered the deviation and then generate discussions around it. This way the community trust is won and communication is free and open. It is the voices of authority (leaders, promoters, healers) from within the community who have to be mobilized and convinced to spearhead the movement of breaking a harmful social norm. It is human tendency to trust your own. The social pressure that this would generate actually results in shifting social norms. Plus, coming from within it also ensures maintenance of the new behavior.

The Role of Social Norms in Fighting Corruption

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to Paolo's blog post The Role of Social Norms in Achieving Behaviour Change:

"Every individual is fashioned by the social norms of his/her community. This means that if there is any practice that is anti-developmental, the easiest way to tackle it is to enter from the behavioural angle. This is because habits once acquired die hard! As Paolo rightly said, it is not easy to achieve behavioural change because, the norms sustaining particular behaviours were allowed to become established due to the fact that they serve the interest of the establishment. If the practice of say, female genital  mutilation became an established tradition, it is because, the political authorities of those communities be them male or female drew certain advantages from the practice.

My observation on the "talk against corruption" in most African countries points to the fact that the regimes in place allowed corruption to germinate and become institutionalized because of its benefits. Having made corruption the norm and integrity the exception, it now becomes very difficult to effect behavioural change, especially amongst adults. In my own country, genuine anticorruption fighters are seen as abnormal persons because, the normal citizens ought to take advantage of the new culture where corruption is the norm.

Why Sound Technical Solutions Are Not Enough: Part II

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

Let us go back to the main theme of this blog: why sound technical solutions devised by top ranking technical experts and supported by plenty of resources from the richest countries have failed to deliver the expected results. A review of past experiences identified a number of causes for the failures of past approaches, but most of them appear to be traceable to one directly linked to communication/dialogue, or the lack of; i.e. the limited involvement of the so-called ‘beneficiaries’ in the decisions and the design of activities that concerned their lives. To sum up, lack of results in development initiatives due to people failing to adopt the prescribed behaviours were largely due to the neglect of the voices of those who were expected to adopt and live with such innovations and technical solutions.

Reinvigorating the Fight against Corruption

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

The 9th of December the UN celebrates the anti-corruption day. It is clear that this is a global issue and a cross-cutting one. It concerns virtually all countries, even if in different degrees, and it can be found in all sectors of the development arena; e.g. health, rural development, agriculture, sanitation and many more. Corruption is not an issue that concerns only the rich; on the contrary, the poor are those who suffer the most from corrupt practices, in a number of ways. First of all, corruption subtracts money from the tax revenues which are the main source of social programmes and services. Secondly, the money the rich pay to corrupt officials are usually passed back as increased costs to consumers, and the poorest ones are the ones that will pay the higher price. Finally, corruption affects not only multimillion deals but spread throughout the social realm like a cancer and I know of bribes asked (and paid) to obtain jobs with a salary of forty dollars a month.

Media Events for Development Campaigns

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Using large international events to get attention for a development objective is a pretty good idea. Events like the Soccer World Cup are so called media events - events that capture the attention of a large audience, that break our routines, and unify a large scattered audience. Whatever team you were cheering for, you weren't the only one cheering for it, and didn't you feel like your team's friends were also your friends? This kind of mood - attention and a feeling of community - provides a great environment for campaigns that want to raise awareness about certain issues or that want to change norms and behaviors.

Media Development vs. Communication for Development: Structure vs. Process

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Brothers for LifeMy colleague Shanthi Kalathil is working on a "Toolkit for Independent Media Development," which we have mentioned several times on this blog. One of the points she makes right at the beginning is that donors need to distinguish between media development and communication for development. Communication for development means the use of communication tools - usually in the form of awareness raising campaigns - to achieve development goals. Media development, on the other hand, is about supporting an independent media sector in and of itself, it's a structural approach.

Attitudes, Opinions, and Why Dinner Matters

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.

What Does It Take to Bring About Change? (Part II)

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

In the last posting I discussed two key elements making change difficult to achieve; namely people’s inherent resistance to change and the tendency to design and deliver messages appealing to the rational side of people. This last point is often a cause of limited success in promoting change because it neglects to consider that human behaviours are not always guided by rational considerations, at least in a strict scientific sense (see the still rather strong diffusion of smoking despite that its harm is almost universally acknowledged).Taking into account stakeholders’ perceptions, satisfaction, and cultural models can often be more effective than solutions-based innovations, especially if suggested by external agents of change.

What Does It Take to Bring About Change? (PART I)

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

Why is change so difficult to achieve, even when it seems to be the best solution for a certain problem? We could start by recalling human nature that is usually risk adverse. Probably this derives from our genetic memory going back thousands of years when deviating from a known routine and venturing into the unknown could jeopardize one’s life. Currently, we still tend to be more comfortable with what we know rather than entering uncharted waters. Hesitation and uncertainty that typically accompany changes are also often coupled with a degree of “mental laziness”, as it always takes an extra effort to change old habits in favor of new ones.


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