Social and behaviour change
Applying social and behavioral science to promote the adoption and maintenance of positive behaviours
Social and behaviour change (SBC) – a core organization programme implementation strategy – is, at its very essence, about understanding the needs of communities and individuals to develop context-specific people-centered solutions aiming to overcome existing challenges that hamper the adoption of desired behaviors so that children and women, including the most disadvantaged, survive and thrive both in emergency and development contexts.
Whether to address girls dropping out of school, eliminate violence against children or child marriage, prevent stunting, promote health and sanitation behaviors, increase demand and uptake of services, or engage adolescents in social change processes, the underlying challenges that underpin UNICEF’s agenda in these areas will involve environmental, social and behavioural dynamics.
Understanding how people make decisions about their own behaviour, the social context in which decisions are made, the environmental drivers that promote or trigger the adoption of desired practices and how to facilitate social change will be key to finding new solutions to the challenges that UNICEF has committed to address.
Individual change cannot be divorced from social change and collective action. Promoting individual and social change requires putting people at the center of programmes - from design to implementation to evaluation. It implies engaging communities at every planning step, improving interventions through an iterative and participative process and measuring the achieved social and behavioural outcomes.
With an ever-growing agenda in development and humanitarian contexts, programmes are constantly faced with the difficulties of prioritizing the investments that will deliver the greatest impact. Investing in SBC has measurable benefits in program design, impact and sustainability.
Investments in SBC accelerates the achievement of programmatic results
SBC interventions aim to create long-lasting behaviour and social change. SBC:
- amplifies the voice of children, adolescents, youth and communities: traditional and innovative community engagement platforms help ensure that target population engages in all planning phases, from research to social accountability mechanisms in both development and humanitarian contexts, so that people are not passive recipients of UNICEF interventions.
- helps changing social norms that sustain harmful practices such as child marriage or FGM and promote norms that enable the adoption and maintenance of pro-social behaviours.
- supports addressing barriers hampering demand for services by using people-centered approaches to understand and build on what people think and feel.
- promotes the humanitarian-development nexus: SBC’s focus on people’s participation, their local networks and resources, and their cultural and social context is critical in both preparedness and response interventions.
- helps identifying the root causes underpinning fundamental obstacles such as power imbalance, gender inequality, discrimination and stigma: both qualitative and quantitative evidence generation is key in understanding social and individual drivers to inform tailored programme design.
- helps reaching and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in an era of emerging threats such as climate change and accelerated urbanization, which is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UNICEF’s gender and equity agenda.