8.2.3 Ability determinants

The FOAM framework provides five subheadings for the behavioural determinants relating to whether someone is capable of engaging in the desired behaviour.


Knowledge can mean understanding or the lack of it. For example:

  • A woman knows she should store water in a vessel with a secure lid.
  • A man is not aware that he should wash his hands after using the latrine.
  • An urban dweller knows which company will empty their septic tank.

Knowledge about the desired behaviour is essential for your target population, but knowledge alone is rarely sufficient to bring about a change in action.


The special knowledge of how to do something in an effective way is a skill. For example:

  • A caretaker knows how to properly clean a toilet.
  • A technician knows how to repair a hand pump.
  • A young woman knows how to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity.

Again, remember that each behaviour determinant can be a facilitator or a deterrent. Each of the examples above are facilitators, but if you were to swap ‘knows’ for ‘doesn’t know’, they become examples of deterrents.

  • Consider the two situations below. Which relates to knowledge and which to skills?

    • a.A mother is unaware that she can use sterilising tablets to make river water safe for drinking.
    • b.A mother doesn’t know how to sterilise water to make it safe for drinking.
  • The first situation relates to knowledge because she is unaware or ‘doesn’t know’ something. The second relates to skills because she ‘doesn’t know how to do’ something.

Social support

Social support is the care that individuals and groups give to each other. This sort of care may be physical, emotional or in the form of information. Examples could include helping a disabled family member to wash themselves, providing emotional support for a young girl as she begins menstruating or telling a new neighbour where they can access clean water.

Roles and decisions

Within any behaviour change plan there will be a number of people who have influential decisions to make. For example, if you are asking households to adopt a certain practice (such as sweeping floors daily), then the roles may include anyone in the household who might take a turn in the activity, and decisions could include the purchase of a new broom.


People may want to do something, or feel they should, but are not able to afford to pay for it. Saving money can be a powerful influencer. There are long-term economic benefits from many WASH practices, generally from improved health, but these are difficult to relate to individual behaviour.

It is also worth noting that affordability may be different from willingness to pay – for example, if a woman can afford to buy sanitary goods but knows that her friend gets them for free from a health centre, she might not be willing to pay. Affordability is an ability determinant, but willingness is a motivation. We’ll look more at this in the next section.

8.2.2 Opportunity determinants

8.2.4 Motivation determinants