Category Archives: Behavior Change

Five-day training began on May Day (May 1) in Kathmandu for the field researchers.

As part of our work with World Bank we’re conducting qualitative research among various ethnic groups in the terai and far west (mountain region) of Nepal.

More details to follow about the program….but the build up to the training has been both exciting and intense….Sumi Devkota is Another Option’s program manager in Nepal and we’re partnering with Right Direction Nepal (RDN) a full-service research firm in Kathmandu led by Nischal Basnet.

And they’ve been terrific.

Five-days of training seems steep doesn’t it…?

But two-days of classroom on the subject matter (content) and behavior change and qualitative then to the field to pre-test, modify and finalize the instruments.

Boom….five days are done.

Out in the field next week…more pictures and anecdotes as this activity unfolds.

Thanks to all for making this happen

Informal pix to follow

g4c

I really don’t go to conferences any more…they are usually repackaged versions of the same old topics with the same old speakers. But attending the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival in New York last week was a breath of fresh air. There was no exhibition hall at G4C …only an entrance hall filled with gaming consoles and lots on interesting games to play. The audience was fun, smart and very causal and yes I did see a few participants with Google glasses!

The topics were diverse and fascinating. Some random observations:

  • Social games can deal with serious topics but at the end of the day they must be exciting, challenging and fun if they are going to engage players and keep their attention. Interesting games can cover serious topics.
  • A handful of presentations analyzed award winning games such as Papers, Please, Gone Home and Games for Peace. On the surface they appear to be interesting “play” games, yet on closer examination, presenters explained that they are constructed to engage players in more serious issues such as ethical decision making, developing empathy, roll playing behaviors, and teamwork.
  •  A hot topic discussed at the conference was using research to develop and refine games. Opinions on this topic were shared throughout the meeting.  Some developers had no use for research.   Other, especially those game developers who had worked in teams with educators or health providers such as Planned Parenthood supported the important role of research in getting the content right. It reminded me of trying to get creative directors at an ad agency to pretest their ads. Sigh.
  •  Most games for girls fall into two categories: makeup and dress up or educational games.  In a study of girls ages 8-14 presented by Rajal Pitroda, girls interviewed stated they wanted more variety; games that reflected their interests: adventure, sports even “shooter” games. They also wanted more variety in the girl characters that are portrayed in games. Seems to me there is a big untapped market there.

I sat in on some panels on using games to cultivate creativity and innovation in schools, make math fun and even promote conflict resolution in the Middle East among young adults. I learned that PBS has reincarnated Mr. Rodgers as a cartoon tiger called Daniel Tiger. He stills wears the cardigan sweater but it is just not the same.

I also learned that parents whose kids play games are the same as parents whose kids surf the internet and parents whose kids watched television. They worry about the time their kids spend playing games; they worry about the effect of games on their brain and personality; they limit the time they can play and they encourage them to go outside and play.

To find out more about the conference go to: http://gamesforchange.org/festival/.

It is easy to forget that behavior change theories and principles can be applied effectively to energy conservation and climate change as it is to disease prevention.

What is amazing to me is that what we’ve been doing in global and domestic health for more than 40 years has not crossed over into the energy and environmental sectors as much as it should have.
This became apparent when I participate at a panel session at the American Council for Energy Efficiency Conference in Baltimore on 31 March.

As background, Another Option was invited by its colleagues at Cadmus to be on the A Shift in Perspective: From Measures to Customers panel and to present examples and experiences of successful behavior change from another sector. Public health has been applying behavior change for years and that’s our primary sector….so it was quite fun and revealing to participate.

Though I’ve done behavior change for energy efficiency and climate change in Africa what I learned at the conference about US consumers was very interesting:

I learned there are over 21 actions a person can take to be energy efficient….wonder how many there are for staying healthy?
But several of these are one-time behaviors…such as recycling old appliances, participating in a home energy analysis, or upgrading HVAC and water heating systems. Then there are the others that require on- going actions — controlling electrical use, purchasing the energy efficient appliance, and buying and loving the new light bulbs.

On paper it seems so obvious because economics or policy have changed our selection options or pocketbook choices. Appliances are more efficient in its water and heating usage; the new light bulbs have replaced the old amid grumbles and complaints; and energy isn’t cheap so keeping the windows closed and thermostat down is a no-brainer.

But for the other less regulated choices the energy companies need to know more about their consumers and users. What has been missing is an analysis of solid consumer research and segmentation by practices and behaviors, gender, geographic areas that tell us about the energy consumers and the environment that they live in – whether it supports or discourages good consumers’ behaviors.

This attention to understanding consumers is a fairly recent trend for the energy efficiency sector, and there was great interest in the programs discussed in the session. But it still is a hard sell. As it was in health. Even now we hear “just tell them and they’ll do it.”

Hmmmm….I don’t think the data supports that.

energy efficiency

“Big data is companies knowing things about our behavior almost before we’re aware of them ourselves.”

Kai Ryssdal, American Public Media, Marketplace

When did the current rush to turn data into pictures begin?

Perhaps it was when Hans Rosling wowed the world from the TED stage in 2006 with his dramatic data visualizations of global development myths. Data visualization has been around for millennia, of course, and Ren Descartes is credited for inventing the notion of graphing data in the 17th century.  Bar and pie charts followed in the late-18th/early 19th centuries, thanks in large part to the hard work of William Playfair, a Scottish social scientist, according to Stephen Few, author of “Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.”

As Few details in his excellent white paper on data visualization’s past, present and future, the field exploded in the 1980s thanks to Edward Tufte’s seminal work, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” in 1983, and Apple’s debut of its personal computer.  Suddenly, everyman could become a wizard of telling data stories through pictures.

Now, of course, there’s an app for that, and everyman/woman can make a graphic and via social media share it with an audience of potentially millions in seconds.  Twitter and Instagram are alive with maps, graphs and doodles. The quality of our data imagery varies greatly, but strong pictures are emerging, and we’ve never had better opportunities to literally have a picture of our collective behaviors.

The results are fascinating: The Chinese search engine Baidu heat mapped the migration pattern of millions of Chinese as they trooped home to celebrate the New Year in January.

 

Graphic: Baidu

Graphic: Baidu

And Mediabistro’s “A Day in the Life of the Internet” chronicled how billions of people spend their time each and every day. We could go on.  

On a more serious note, Dan Munroe pointed out in Forbes.com recently, seeing outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases on a map – this one, a world map from the Council on Foreign Relations —  is brightly colored yet hard-hitting proof of the damage of the behavior of refusing vaccines.

Graphic: Council on Foreign Relations

Graphic: Council on Foreign Relations

 

Mobile phone data in particular may be priceless information for development, as a technology pervasive in developing markets.  One mobile carrier analysis showed where folks needed buses in Abidjan, leading to a rework of the city’s transport system. Another mHealth data analysis showed how human travel leads to the spread of malaria.

What does this mean for those of us involved in measuring and changing behaviors? For one, graphic data leads to greater awareness, particularly as information flows across social and mobile media.  We like shiny, pretty things.  And what makes good data visualizations? Some schools, including Harvard and MIT, are helping us move toward a more scientific understanding of what makes visualized data memorable, and the Rhode Island School of Design is working on how best to put across complex scientific concepts.

And as we become more sophisticated in creating good graphics, with an evidence-based understanding of what truly imparts information, we’ll be that much better in conveying ideas in ways that transcend cultural and even language barriers – and changing behavior on a visible, grand scale.

It’s like watching a train wreck: you can’t quite look away, but it’s painful to watch.

Richie_Incognito_Jonathan_Martin

Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, of the Miami Dolphins; Credit: AP

All we want to do (and it is all about us, isn’t it?) is watch a football game. We don’t want to be distracted knowing that our favorite “bad guys” may be damaged goods or that this aggression comes from somewhere other than winning the game.

But with the past week’s news on the alleged harassment within the Miami NFL team, we are forced to go into the locker room and recognize the culture that allows, encourages, systematizes—pick a word—this negative behavior.

I had lunch yesterday with a good friend and professional colleague and this story came up. Since we work on gender-issues in international development, it was rather obvious to us that the only way to change negative behavior towards gender is a massive change in the environment that tolerates such behavior. The best way to make this change  is through policy and the strict enforcement of that policy.

Are you listening, NFL?

Think about this: If we spend the majority of our time at work in comparison to the time we spend at home or play—whatever “play” is—it is logical that our behaviors at work would dominate or influence our life.

I remember seeing an article once that asked people, Would you want your children to see how you behave or act at work? Many said no.

Understood.

So I find the NFL now struggling with a situation of alleged harassment or bullying. In interviews with other professional football players about this incident, their response are: “ This is how things are in the locker room. What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.” These responses sound eerily like those we hear in so many countries where rape and abuse are considered allowable offenses that are culturally condoned.

Just because it is what has been done doesn’t mean it is right or should be tolerated. Whether it is the NFL’s, or any professional sport’s, aggressive and hazing practices or rape as a political tool for control.

Behaviors—negative or positive—are not easily turned on and off. And a quick survey of behavioral literature will tell you that the negative behaviors in the locker room or work place spill over into domestic and civilian life.

I’d like to think the NFL case is the opportunity to make necessary changes and in so doing influence other work environments, proving that good behaviors also win games.

Ok. I will admit. I have a crush on Atul Gawande.

I love his book, The Checklist Manifesto and his no-nonsense approach to avoiding medical errors which plague health facilities in the US.

Rather than pointing fingers he provides a practical tool for hospital staff to ensure all steps are covered during hospital procedures.

In his recent article in the July 29th New Yorker, SLOW IDEAS: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t? http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/07/29/130729fa_fact_gawande Gawande examines how important global health practices can “stick” given the right approaches and tools.

As someone who has been following the literature and practice of behavior change for 30+ years, such a treat to come across this article that succeeds in explaining behavioral theory, research and practice in one easily digestible, non-academic article.

The big take from Gawande’s article….

The gold standard for behavior change is positive personal interaction. High touch (personal interaction, mentoring, one-to-one instruction) interventions in many cases can be more effective than low touch (mass media, instructional curricula, and technology) interventions.

So in keeping with his checklist approach I will share with you my checklist from his article:

1. Observe and understand the context for why a behavior is or isn’t being practiced
2. Learn why people are doing what they are doing- and what is getting in the way of doing things the right way
3. Don’t assume that technology is the best solution (especially in global health)
4. Instructions (a checklist) followed by careful mentoring can reinforce positive behaviors for health professionals
5. Mass media is helpful to sustain a behavior over time
6. Community interventions that require a community learning a new practice need: individual interventions that demonstrate the practice; observations of community members trying the practice and monitoring of the practice over time.

I’m eagerly awaiting his next book.

Kudos to our friends and colleagues at Games for Change

Earlier this week they launched their innovative new project, Half the Sky http://www.gamesforchange.org/press-room/

And to their partners USAID, The Ford Foundation and Show of Force.

Its formal name – Half the Sky Movement Media and Technology Engagement Initiative – is a lot to remember and quite official-sounding….it doesn’t really tell you how exciting and groundbreaking this program is.

It is a mix of games and social media (Facebook game came on board early) and traditional media such as short videos to help change behavior and attitudes toward women and girls’.

What does it do?

Evidence shows that a combination of communication tools – games, videos, social media, news stories can contribute to a shift in attitudes and behaviors toward women and girls (gender). Half the Sky has corralled these new and traditional media tools to create multiple sources of information that reach populations at all levels – national and community.

Half the Sky has focused on pregnancy care – getting men involved in pregnancy care, elevating and equalizing girls’ status in their family, and deworming treatment and prevention.

The games that are part of Half the Sky – developed by Games for Change – will be launched in Kenya and India and are being translated to Swahili and Hindi.
Community interventions include three mobile phone games.

So…who made it happen?

USAID…The Ford Foundation…Facebook game developed by Frima Studio…Games for Change…Show of Force…

Congrats to all…and THANKS!