A Behavioural Approach to International Development
14 October 2019
Over the past few months, The Behavioural Architects have written a three-part series with The Behavioral Scientist, deep diving into how behavioural science is being applied in the context of international development.
While this is a fascinating topic, and there were many different avenues we could have ventured down, we specifically focused on the ways good intentions can go amiss, the pitfalls of misperceptions, and the lessons we can draw from designing and implementing interventions in the field. The series is rich in insights, learnings and actions that will collectively take you on a compelling journey full of unexpected twists and turns.
Here’s a quick preview to whet your appetite!
Our first article “Teddies for Timor” and the Perils of Good Intentions looks at how we can use behavioural science to encourage cash donations in times of crisis.
Unfortunately, a wealth of research shows that in-kind donations of goods, while popular among donors, tend to lead to large amounts of waste in post-crisis zones. In light of this, we look at the behavioural drivers (and biases) that motivate people to donate in-kind - despite its inefficiencies - and how we can use insights from behavioural science to encourage a shift from in-kind to cash; to improve the efficiency of aid giving, and ultimately better help those struck by disaster...
Our second article Busting Misbeliefs to Improve Women’s Well-being explores misconceptions around women’s issues in different contexts, and how we can use behavioural science to combat these misbeliefs to drive better outcomes for women’s well-being.
Let us highlight an example: in Saudi Arabia, women need their husband’s permission to work outside of the home. A research team found that while the majority of men (87%!) believed that women should be able to work outside of the home, they also vastly underestimated the level of support from other men. These misperceptions of the injunctive social norm - what more people approve of or believe - leads to compliance with the established norm for fear of disapproval of others and contributes to a large proportion of men keeping their wives in the home. Correcting these misconceptions is therefore a key step in encouraging behaviour change and improving women’s employment outside of the household...
Our third and final article in the series Saving Lives By Closing the Intention-Action Gap looks at how behavioural insights have helped the design and implementation of two interventions in rural India and Kenya, promoting healthier behaviours among citizens.
We can all probably relate to a time (or many!) where we’ve meant to do something, understand why we should do it, but never actually end up doing it. This is a universal phenomenon among humans, and where this may be frustrating at best, in some contexts - for sanitation and health behaviours - it can be fatal. In rural India, for example, information about the benefits of hand washing is widespread. However, while knowledge may have been improved through information campaigns, the action is still missing... We highlight two projects that successfully closed the intention-action gap, using behavioural science to influence actual behavioural change, rather than simply push information.
These articles show how behavioural science is being increasingly adopted in international development and it is wonderful to see its power in action, helping to address some of our most pressing global challenges.
We hope you enjoy them, and please let us know your thoughts!
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