Social and Behavioral Change Communication Summit 2016

Rebecca Meiksin, Research Fellow for the LINEA project, attended the Social and Behavioral Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 8-10 February 2016. 

SBCC Summit features creative and strategic approaches to improving health

By Rebecca Meiksin

The Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA) explores how social norms might be harnessed to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse. To inform our work, I attended the SBCC Summit to learn about theories and strategies in social and behavioural change communication.

Highlights from the meeting

  • Presenters shared creative strategies for influencing gender roles and norms to improve public health outcomes. For example, researchers in Ethiopia found that eating extra or different foods during pregnancy was difficult due to a social norm of “selflessness” for women. By testing multiple concepts to promote nutrition during pregnancy, they found that the metaphor of a “queen bee” – who is essential to the hive and needs the support of the bees around her to stay healthy – had traction in reframing nutrition during pregnancy as a family affair. (Presentation can be found by searching “queen bee” in the Summit programme)
  • As its tagline suggests – “Elevating the science & art of SBCC” – the Summit highlighted the importance of theory-based and systematic approaches to communication interventions. In a session on human-centred design, for example, presenters shared their structured processes for developing, prototyping, testing and refining interventions. (Examples available by searching “human-centered” in the Summit programme)
  • In her TED-style talk, Jess Majekodunmi showed how Girl Effect in Ethiopia is harnessing the power of branding to raise the profile of girls with its Yegna campaign. UNICEF Sudan’s female genital mutilation (FGM) prevention programme is using a similar strategy to unite community members around the notion of “Saleema,” an Arabic word that presenter Samira Elamin explained connotes being complete, intact and full. Diverging from past stigma-based approaches to preventing FGM, the Saleema initiative’s positive media messages aim to engage shared values and promote collective action to improve the future for girls.
  • The theme of what gets measured, and who decides this, recurred throughout the conference. In her Keynote talk, Lebo Ramafoko, Executive Director of the Soul City Institute, discussed the challenge of short-term evaluation timelines for long-term processes. SBCC programmes, she pointed out, are expected to change behaviours in six months that took hundreds of years to form. She highlighted the importance of measuring indicators of change along the way. For example, in an HIV testing intervention involving dialogue among adolescent girls, she argued that we should be measuring not only testing uptake, but also social cohesion and the quality of the discussions.

These themes and techniques offer valuable insights and examples to draw on as we consider norms- and community-based approaches to child protection.

See more conference photos here.

Image: Rebecca Meiksin, far right, exchanging business cards at SBCC Summit 2016. Image and photo slideshow courtesy of SBCC Summit.

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