Billions of dollars are spent each year on sanitation, healthcare, and good governance, but the results vary quite a bit from place to place. What separates successful programs from the unsuccessful?
Those that achieve their goals try to change behavior alongside introducing new methods or making investments. One way to change behavior is to use shame— an overwhelmingly negative emotion —to emotionally link individuals to the communities in which they live.
Shame and Sanitation
Shame was, in fact, a central ingredient to a program in Bangladesh that reduced the percentage of Bangladeshis defecating out in the open from 19% in 2000 to only 3% in 2012.
The program utilized the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) method, which “focuses on instigating a change in sanitation behaviour rather than constructing sanitation infrastructure.” Changes in sanitation behaviors are accomplished through a process of deliberation and discussion within communities to build consensus on the need to end open defecation and clarify the hazards that open defecation poses.
Among the tools that CLTS uses are the “shameful walk” in which communities collectively visit the places of open defecation to point them out and “feces mapping” in which communities prepare a map of the places defecation occurs in order to help people see the physical connections between feces and food, agriculture, and water sources.
Why was CLTS Successful?
Shaming people to change their behaviors is a very powerful approach to induce the kind of behavior change that program designers seek. Shame is a negative emotion that people work hard to avoid! One of the best ways to avoid it is to change our personal behavior.
According to Tangney, Stuewig, and Mashek (2011), through self-reflection, we may come to realize how our actions relate to social expectations. They argue, that “In effect, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride function as an emotional moral barometer, providing immediate and salient feedback on our social and moral acceptability.” What’s more, people can also anticipate their likely emotional reactions – or how much shame they might feel in the future— when they make decisions.
Shame, though, is also experienced collectively. In one study by Lickel, Schmader, Curtis, Scarnier and Ames (2005), 187 undergraduate students were asked to remember events in which they felt ashamed or guilty due to the actions of a family member, friend, or someone of the same ethnicity that they do not know. The participants described the event, who did what, and how it made them feel. After each event, participants rated their emotions, motivations, appraisals, and association-related variables. Interestingly, events involving either family or friends were rated as having high levels of interdependence, high appraisals of control, and more intense feelings of guilt and desire to make amends. In contrast, events involving an someone from their ethnic group were rated as highly relevant to group identity but evoked a desire to distance oneself from it. The study suggests people feel ashamed for the actions of another when they also feel that the person’s behavior is relevant to a shared social identity and, by association, reflect poorly on their personal identity.
Both the “shameful walk” and “feces mapping” of the CLTS approach provide platforms for self-reflection AND create collective shame by linking open defecation to the entire community’s health and identity. Community members realize through the exercises how their defecation practices affect themselves as well as their neighbors. Avoiding personal and collective shame is, therefore, achieved by adopting prosocial sanitation practices.
"You have to first recognize that it’s a behavior shift that’s needed before you put in the infrastructure,” stated Junaid Ahmad, Senior Director of Global Water Practice of the World Bank while attending World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2014.
The Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP), administered by World Bank, has played an important role in enabling the approach to spread to India and, subsequently, to Indonesia and parts of Africa.
Photograph by Viengsompasong Inthavong via World Bank Photo Collection, available here
Follow PublicSphereWB on Twitter!