Assessing the Situation

What you Need to Know 

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Recently listening to TEDxCSU Talk on behavior change led by Professor Jeni Cross from Colorado University, I was immediately struck by how we routinely rush the planning stage of a behavior change communication (BCC) intervention. Taking time to understand where we are, where we want to go, and what will enable us to reach our goal is essential in devising a successful nutrition communication campaign. Resonating with this topic is the second webinar in Sight and Life’s Webinar Series “Assessing the Situation: What you Need to Know.” It is a valuable and timely reminder on the importance of understanding your target audience during the BCC planning process. 

During this enlightening dialogue Professor Cross spoke candidly about the existing myths regarding behavior change. For example, does education change behavior? What we know about education is how the information is presented, rather than the information itself, creates behavior change. Making learning tangible, personalized, and incorporating social interaction provides the greatest impact in behavior change.  

Another misconception is that one needs to change attitudes to change behaviors. Attitudes do not predict behavior! A more effective strategy is to connect to people’s values to set behavior expectations. The last myth is that people know the triggers that motivate them. Professor Cross argues this is not the case, as social norms have, by far, the greatest influence on human behavior. For instance, if you see someone select a healthy option at lunch, then you are more likely to follow suit. Understanding these constructs in human behavior is important because they are the core of developing successful nutrition communication campaigns.  Watch the TEDxCSU Talk below: 

Keep this principle thought in mind as you embark on the next steps in the BCC process presented in Sight and Life’s second webinar in the BCC Webinar Series. 

The Journey to Understanding your Audience 

Here are the questions to ask as you embark on step 2 and 3 in the BCC process:   
– What is it that I really need to know about my audience and the environment in which they live? 
– What works and does not? 
– How do I get to the core of what matters to my target audience? 

Webinar 2 walks through the typical knowledge needs required for a BCC intervention in nutrition, examines how to get the most out of each knowledge source and suggests approaches that enable a deep understanding of the target audience.  

BCC Process Step 2. The Desk Review 

Before beginning the desk review, be sure to answer the question, what is the purpose of this information and how do you plan to use it?  

The desk review encompasses three elements: 
– Exploring the broader context
– Reviewing the effectiveness of past experiences
– Understanding program context (reaching your target audience) 

In summary, elements 1 through 3 of the desk review help define the scope of your communication strategy. These identify the broad parameters and constraints to use when designing and delivering the intervention while also supporting the critical decisions when creating a communication strategy.  

BCC Process Step 3. Client Research 

The next step in the BCC process involves acquiring valuable insights from the target audience and communities you seek to change. We are again reminded of the BCC principle; know your audience!  

BCC, Nutritional Status, conceptual Model, behavior communicationDuring webinar 2 we share three key components in client research which support the gathering of comprehensive information on the target audience and factors that influence behaviors and practices; the inquiry framework (what do you need to know about the behaviors), applicable research methods (how to extract that information), and insight generation (moving from understanding behavior to finding deep, shared truths). 
BCC, Nutritional Status, conceptual Model, behavior communication
Consider the questions posed at the start of this blog: what do I need to know about my audience and the environment in which they live, what works or does not, and how do I get to the core of what matters to my target audience? Steps 2 and 3 help you answer these questions.  

Key Takeaways from Webinar 2 

– The BCC principle ‘know your audience’ lies at the core of developing successful nutrition communication campaigns.  
– Defining your knowledge needs, or simply what you need to know, is the first critical consideration.  
– Step 2 in the BCC process is about assessment, analysis, and synthesis of information to effectively answer questions on the broader context, the drivers and constraints for the target behavior and communication efforts previously employed to change the desired behavior.
– Client research, step 3 in the BCC process, involves gaining valuable insights from the target audience and communities that you seek to change. 

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Essential Reading on Behavior Change Communication (BCC)

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At Sight and Life, we are pleased to share knowledge and recommend resources that we find useful in our work. This is certainly the case with behavior change communication (BCC)! To continue learning about BCC while waiting for the upcoming webinar, we have collated an array of books, websites, and e-learning modules that are valuable resources. This is just our opinion but we hope theses recommendations can deepen your knowledge on BCC and provide though-provoking ideas and inspiration as it did for us. 

During the first webinar in the Sight and Life Webinar Series focusing on behavior change communication (BCC), we examine integrating BCC into nutrition programs. The key learnings are:

– BCC is a communication approach with distinct underlying principles, which make it a valuable part of nutrition programming.
– It is complicated but can be managed by taking a systematic approach.
– Consider the Sight and Life BBC process cycle as a tool to support planning your nutrition communication campaign.

Find the video and the complete slide deck here from the first Sight and Life webinar People eat food not nutrition: Integrating BCC into nutrition programs HERE.
Behavior change communications, BCC, SBCC 
On May 15th we will be hosting our second webinar Assessing the situation: What you need to know (please register HERE). In this webinar we will identify the typical knowledge needs for BCC intervention in nutrition. We will discuss how to get the most out of the knowledge sources, including written material (program reports, scientific papers), experienced program stakeholders, knowledgeable service providers, and of course, your target audience. Additionally, learn tips for tailoring formative research to generate insights on the factors driving eating behaviors.

Our Recommendations on BCC

E- learning:

1. This interactive course by Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally project (SPRING) will guide you through narrated slides, quizzes, exercises, handouts, videos, and links to helpful resources. This course will help you understand agriculture’s role in improving nutrition, learn how to use behavior change methods to prioritize and promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices, and develop a behavior change strategy for current and future agriculture projects. Find it HERE.

Reading

2. Read this work SPRING; Evidence of Effective Approaches to Social and Behavior Change for Preventing and Reducing Stunting and Anemia to learn the findings from a systematic literature review. 

Lamstein, S.,T. Stillman, P. Koniz-Booher, A.Aakesson, B. Collaiezzi,T.Williams, K. Beall, and M.Anson. 2014. Evidence of Effective Approaches to Social and Behavior Change Communication for Preventing and Reducing Stunting and Anemia: Report from a Systematic Literature Review. Arlington,VA: USAID/ Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Project.

Toolkit

3. Behavior Change Toolkit  – for International Development Practitioners
This behavior change toolkit is a useful, well written and simple introduction to BCC. A great resource for those starting their learning journey on BCC. The toolkit can be downloaded HERE.

Books

4. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler, and Cass R. Sunstein.
A book from the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics, Richard H. Thaler, and Cass R. Sunstein: it is a revelatory look at how we make decisions. The authors examine the process of how people think, and suggest that we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice. Nudge is really about the small, subtle pushes that our modern-day world makes to sway one’s opinion or real-world choices.

Why it’s on our Kindle’s
To succeed in behavioral change we must be able to offer people better, more favorable and less costly choices to what they are currently doing. To reduce the consumption of junk food in teenagers for example, we must be able to design alternatives that are equally desirable. Therefore, we must build an architecture that will encourage people to change their habits and follow our behavioral goals. We loved reading the real life examples in this book and learning how simple, thoughtful ‘nudges’ can help people change a variety of behaviors. Find it HERE
 
5. The Power of HabitWhy We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg 
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. It uses research to explain how habits are formed and changed. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. 

Why we think it’s an essential read for BCC
We recommend The Power of Habit as an easy and fun to read introduction into the science of habit formation and the art of attempting to change them. As nutrition program managers, most of the time, our challenges go beyond changing people’s behaviors. Changing what and how people eat requires us to understanding people’s daily habits and then help them to adopt new routines. This book an excellent foundation to understand the particulars of habits. Buy your copy HERE.  

6. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. The Tipping Point explains the phenomenon of why some products, businesses, authors, etc. become hugely successful (tip) while others never seem to break apart from the masses as anything special. Buy your copy HERE.

Why we think it’s relevant to BCC
We think The Tipping Point is a great read to understand how change happens and what makes a behavior tip. Successful interventions and campaigns aimed at changing people’s routines have certain critical characteristic in common: They manage to gain followers, naturally mobilize the audience, and make the behavior contagious instead of imposing it. These initiatives succeed in making the behavior desirable, the message exciting and memorable – like a jingle that naturally ‘sticks’ – and they understand that ‘little things’ in people’s lives matter.

Happy reading!

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Yana Manyuk

Social Marketing Specialist

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When I close my eyes and think about happy moments from my childhood in Russia, I can see my grandma stirring Russian Beetroot Soup in a big kettle and smell the freshly caught fish from dad’s fishing trip and recently picked mushrooms from the forest. When I was 9 years old my whole family moved to Germany. Amidst this incredibly challenging process of adaptation and slow transformation of my cultural identity – it was my grandma’s beetroot soup with sour cream that gave me comfort and a sense of home. That meal opened the door for my friends to discover my Russian culture through food, which told a story of heritage and provided a home of warmth.

I grew up in a family of artists and doctors – equally fascinated by the human sciences and the creativity of expression. At a very young age, I knew my dream job would be one where I could combine my love for science, humanities, food culture, and art. Behavioral change is as much a science as it is an art and I feel truly blessed that I live my professional dream. I often describe my role as a detective with a passion for innovative solutions. It takes patient research, sensitivity, empathy, and creativity to crack the case of how to change people’s behaviors.

“Out of a myriad of options to apply my set of knowledge and skills, I chose nutrition as it is the most interesting to me. Behavior change in this field has probably the most sophisticated goals; we not only aim to change multiple intricate behaviors but to gain a deep understanding of and influence people’s daily routines and change their habits. This is a difficult challenge.” – Yana Manyuk

I feel lucky to be working with a passionate and compassionate team comprised of different experiences, talents and expertise to solve some of the worlds most challenging issues with solutions drawn from innovation and characterized by their smart simplicity. It is an honor to be part of the Sight and Life family.

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