9.4 Social change communication and social mobilisation

Some theories of behaviour change move away from the individual and focus more on the relationships between behaviour and the social and physical environments in which it occurs. Individuals are dependent on their environment and the structure of the systems in which they live. This means that they are influenced by the organisational, political and economic environment and also by gender, power, culture and community issues.

If you were undertaking an assessment of behaviour, you will identify any relevant values and social norms as behaviour determinants when completing the FOAM framework. If they were significant factors, as in the case study above, then a social change communication approach could be a useful tool in your behaviour change strategy. Social change communication focuses on the community as the unit of change rather than the individual. It is a process whereby ‘community dialogue’ and ‘collective action’ work together to produce social change in a community. This can mean changes in people’s understanding of an issue, in their behaviour and practices, in policies, and in gender norms and relations.

The aim of social change in the WASH context is to improve the health and welfare of all members of the community. A response to social change communication might come in the form of social mobilisation, where people in the community come together to act for change. (Community mobilisation is the topic of Study Session 11.)

Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) is one of the social change approaches that helps rural communities to understand the negative effects of poor sanitation and encourages them to take action to eliminate the practice of open defecation. It is an approach that focuses on the community as a whole rather than on individuals. (You will learn more about CLTS in Study Session 10.)

  • Look back at Case Study 9.2 and identify the social change communication intervention which was used to draw up bylaws to reduce child marriage.

  • Community conversation were used here to involve the community in drawing up the new bylaws. You might also have mentioned the counselling sessions that took place at the primary school.

9.3 Behaviour change communication