The following article considers the role pictorial methods can play in supporting a social norms approach. The article is based on C4D Support and the C4D Network’s practical experience gained through a number of social norms focused projects.
As social norms theory increasingly becomes the conceptual base for many initiatives, getting to grips with the social norms approach is becoming essential for communication for development (C4D) practitioners. Knowing what constitutes a social norms approach, as well as how to design or commission one, are important emerging technical skills.
However, it’s also important that the practice of developing and implementing a social norms approach does not stay in the realm of C4D practitioners only. To be really effective it should be a process that any informed group of people can do, whether on a community level or institutional level.
After all analysing ourselves is something very human and very common. It is just common sense, and social norms theory offers a set of analytical concepts, and off the back of this analysis, it suggests some good ideas for helping to make positive change happen.
For social norms approaches to be effective they should be tools for as many change agents as possible. So how can we ‘popularise’ this theory and process without dumbing it down? How can we advance capacity development in social norms theory in a way that makes it useful for all of us?
One way is to ‘visualise’ social norms approaches, to embed them in story scenarios, and to lessen the centrality of the academic words through more accessible definitions and explanations of the central analytical ideas.
In a small way, we at C4D Support and the C4D Network have been trying to do this through a number of social norms focused projects. Most recently we have worked with UNICEF Nigeria through a nationwide capacity development project on social norms approaches to counter violence against children.
This project is special because unlike so many interventions it is not only the experts doing the analysis and then creating campaigns, it is about helping to build the know-how of many different people throughout government and civil society to analyse and create their own social norms interventions as part of a national strategy. People from federal, state and local government, and people from diverse NGOs and small community groups — all with very different contexts, understandings and backgrounds.
Against this background a wordy training about ‘pluralistic ignorance’ and ‘behavioural determinants’ did not seem right so through trial and error we worked to drill down to the core ideas, and then tried to visually play-out these ideas in familiar settings. We know that such pictorial methods are not enough for a thorough technical learning (there needs to be the depth of input through academia), but such methods can be a supplement or an introduction.
By introducing these ideas and skills such visuals can hopefully provide a gateway, breaking down some of the barriers between experts and non-experts when it comes to social norms analysis. They can help people to get the core concepts and consider how to apply these strategies locally themselves, and most of all they highlight how social norms approaches can be usefully applied to advancing social change right where people are — here and now, not just theoretically.
It would be valuable to see how other people have pictured social norms concepts and scenarios; if you have any examples or leads about this please do share via [email protected].