Jamie Baird of Sustainable Development Charity Raleigh International discusses the WASH project and how a project in rural Tanzania shows it is demonstrating how young people can provide key insights and community leadership to embed behaviour change.
In rural Tanzania, despite the existence of some sanitation systems, water contamination and poor knowledge around good hygiene practices are all too commonplace. When communities are unable to follow good practices around hand washing and food hygiene, they are at higher risk of facing cholera outbreaks and diarrhoea transmission, putting a strain on families and posing a real and tangible threat to livelihoods.
Changing behaviours is key
But how do you support a community to adopt new behaviours which are at odds to what they have known throughout their lifetime? As Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee (2019 Nobel Laureates in Economics) have shown, effective solutions for poor communities need to be based on understanding their real-world pressures and incentives. These can sometimes be surprising to outsiders yet entirely logical when explained.
So our partnership programme with RB, a global consumer goods firm, has used two approaches: engaging young people to identify new insights into the drivers of poor WASH practices; then supporting them as community champions to embed good WASH practices.
The benefits of young people as agents for change
When we engage young people in developing solutions, we can tap into a power which can ensure sustainability and long-lasting change, because young people are:
- At a critical transitional life stage, therefore more likely to adopt and share new hygiene behaviours.
- Best placed to communicate and build relationships with their peers (something called “representational bias” within behavioural science)
- Key users of WASH services including the everyday reality of their absence
- Open-minded, passionate and energetic, ready to disrupt the WASH sector and increase participation, agency, collaboration and innovation.
We then use a three-step model for WASH behaviour change:
- Understanding behaviours: Enabling the use of formative research to develop contextual understandings and approaches that “nudge” people towards healthy hygiene behaviours.
- Changing behaviours of community champions: Working with a select group of young people, training them, giving them the tools and confidence to be influential role models to embed long-lasting, healthy hygiene behaviours in communities and schools.
- Cascading behaviours: Supporting young people to lead campaigns promoting healthy hygiene and menstrual hygiene management behaviours in the school, at home and beyond.
The model in action
This model was implemented through an innovative partnership with Raleigh International and RB who together developed a behaviour change programme around water and sanitation in rural Tanzania called ‘Healthier Lives, Happier Homes’. This partnership was innovative in that is started with formative research, then used corporate experts in health to generate ideas in response, and then worked with nationally-significant young people to roll out the campaign.
This programme was designed specifically by 30 young employees from RB and young Tanzanian Raleigh alumni as part of RB’s Global Volunteer Challenge. Using key insights and findings from formative research conducted by these young leaders, participants developed ideas to spread healthier hygiene practices which can tackle the spread of water- borne diseases.
They found that while school students in rural areas learn about the importance of good hygiene and sanitation in class, these learnings fail to cascade into the home. The absence of cascading from school was a critical novel insight which the programme was then designed to address.
To make best use of this insight, a new programme was designed focussing on empowering young school students to become SWASH Heroes in rural communities who can share key hygiene behaviours beyond the classroom. They were trained using child friendly resources designed by RB employees so that they can share good hygiene behaviours more widely in homes and non-school settings, where research revealed it was most needed. Formative research recognised that our SWASH Heroes were acting within a social context,so through the programme they were incentivised to share increasing information about health and hygiene through t-shirts and certificates which were awarded to the most successful ‘sharers’. The pride and support parents and families showed ‘their’ SWASH Hero was also incentivising for everyone.
Rolling out to new audiences
Now that the success of our three-step method has been shown, young people will continue this work over 2020 with two new target audiences: fathers and local vendors. We are proud and excited to continue to support these SWASH Heroes working to change hygiene behaviours in their communities for the better.