Eight common pitfalls of social norms interventions: theory in assistance of better practice - Ben Cislaghi

Despite the fascination with social norms theory to improve health outcomes, the ability to use social norm theory to inform health interventions varies widely. In this Learning Lab Ben Cislaghi presents eight pitfalls that practitioners must avoid as they plan to integrate a social norms perspective in their interventions, as well as eight learnings. These learnings are:

  1. Social norms and attitudes are different
  2. Social norms and attitudes can coincide
  3. Protective norms can offer important resources for achieving effective social improvement in people’s health-related practices
  4. Harmful practices are sustained by a matrix of factors that need to be understood in their interactions
  5. The prevalence of a norm is not necessarily a sign of its strength
  6. Social norms can exert both direct and indirect influence
  7. Publicising the prevalence of a harmful practice can make things worse
  8. People-led social norm change is both the right and the smart thing to do

Dr Ben Cislaghi is Assistant Professor in Social Norms at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Before joining academia, he worked with NGOs, research institutions, and UN Organisations. In the period 2013-2016 he worked as the Director of Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation of the NGO Tostan, a leading NGO in the field of social norms change. At the LSHTM he is gathering a community of experts on social norms and gender-related harmful practices, advancing existing understanding of how norms change and how that change can be measured. He is collaborating with various NGOs (Oxfam, Save the Children, World Education) and he's contributing to the Lancet special series on gender norms and health. He is interested in how community-based responses can achieve change in social norms, helping people achieve greater human dignity and mutual understanding.

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