Reflections on the SBCC Summit from Darriel Harris

Post by Darriel Harris, MA, MDiv, Project Officer, Baltimore Food and Faith Project of Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

The SBCC conference was an amazing experience for me. Not only was I able to convene with approximately 800 professionals using various strategies and skills to promote behavior change around the world, I was also able to share a portion of the work I’ve done and the successes that it has brought.

One of the conference aspects that quickly became apparent was that the conference was a space with more questions than answers. I mean this admirably. From the opening to the closing session we were left wrestling with a multitude of questions, questions that we were solicited to help solve. The multitude of questions conveyed that there is much to learn, that there is no single panacea to solve all our problems, and that there is room for new ideas. And it were the new ideas that excited me.

I attended a workshop where people were attempting to change perceptions and eventually behaviors around exclusive breastfeeding in Southeast Asia. Instead of holding community based workshops, putting up billboards, or creating literature on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and the dangers of mingling breastmilk with other liquids, they created a television drama that would air during prime time hours that chronicles an inter-generational drama enticing to the people of that geographic region. The purpose of the drama was pure entertainment, and it presenting like entertainment and nothing else. Their innovation was to include within this entertaining drama series a few powerful lines between a new mother and her mother-in-law that depicted the new mother rejecting the mother-in-law’s efforts to feed the newborn child river water, honey, and Holy water.

I thought this was ingenious. What I’ve learned about people and health messaging is that altering behaviors that are deep seeded in culture, religious beliefs, and pseudo-science is often less about the factual information put forth and more about how the people feel as the messages are received. The television drama spoke to people about exclusive breastfeeding within a larger, entertaining context while their affect towards the messenger (the television drama series) was positive, which hopefully translates into new behaviors. Another reason I enjoyed it so much was because it highlighted the level of investment necessary to change behaviors. Too often we look for the quick solutions, ignoring the reality that the yielded results are typically commensurate with the level of creativity and investment utilized in their creation.

Other people offered new creative ideas employing basic cellular phones, social media, village level dramas, and religion. Religion is a hot button topic for me, because it has been the primary means through which I have altered community-wide health behaviors. At the conference, my suspicion that religion was not my strategy alone was confirmed. There are groups in Ethiopia, Malawi, and South America that are attempting to change behavior by creating resources that intersect public health and religion, and many other regions of the world interested in beginning.

On the first day of the conference, I was privileged with the opportunity of sharing my experiences in South Sudan, where I created a community health curriculum that fused health best practices with Biblical scriptures. My theory was that people would be open to health messages if they were embedded in a format that they already accepted. The people were trusting of the Bible but suspicious of Westerners attempting to change their culture and micromanage their ways of life. Thus, instead of holding health workshops, we help Bible workshops and the texts we studied pertained to various health lessons. After I presented my CommTalk at the conference, many people approached me about the possibility of utilizing my strategy in their respective regions of the world. This pleased me because although this has been my strategy, I’m open to learning from others the details through which the strategy is employed and the varying results following the differences in implementation. I’m open to learning the best way to implement my strategy, or even if there are other aspects of the strategy that need to be considered. Again, these are more questions, and SBCC was a wonderful place to ask.

Watch Darriels’ CommTalk from the SBCC Summit:

First International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit 2016: Provides Direction to SBCC Activities

Post by:Kiran Bam, SBC Specialist, Saath-Saath Project (SSP)/FHI 360 Nepal

I participated in First International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Ministry of Health, USAID, and Health Communication Capacity Collaborative from February 8-10, 2016. The SBCC Summit’s theme was “Elevating the Science and Art of Social and Behavior Change Communication.” There were altogether 700 participants from 52 countries envisioning to bring together the global community of SBCC organizations, professionals and researchers to advance the practice of the behavior change communication.

kiransummitAt this global platform of the SBCC Summit, I participated as a speaker in technical panel themed “Building blocks: From Micro to Macro” on the first day of the Summit. I presented paper from USAID-funded SSP, “Microplanning: An Innovative Process to Empower and Engage Outreach Staff for Strategic Behavior Communication for HIV Prevention in Nepal.” The presentation covered the concepts on microplanning in HIV prevention, process, its importance, and achievements made so far.

The three day Summit was focused on sharing of the SBCC innovations, good practices and lesson learned to deliver well-designed health communication and positive health outcomes through information booths, poster and oral presentations. All of the sessions of SBCC Summit were quite effective in delivering the key message how employing local level SBCC interventions can have impact at large and in on the human behaviors particular. Integration of the SBCC interventions at local cultural context play crucial role for change, and use of the available technologies maximize the outcomes of the SBCC interventions. These learnings could be used in Nepal to promote local level SBCC initiatives yet further, using available existing channels, and integrating SBCC interventions within the cultural context. Most liked session for me was on “Fun and Games Changing Lives: SBCC in Low Literacy Settings.” During the session, games related to HIV prevention, ART adherence, and condom use were demonstrated through the role-plays. Those games seemed quite interesting and interactive which could be used during SSP trainings in future days.

kiransummit2At the same forum, Springboard for Health Communication Professional’s app was launched to share health communication knowledge, experiences and resources. Springboard is an online social networks that connects SBCC practitioners around a variety of technical areas. The three day summit ended with the intriguing session and which provided SBCC planners from different parts of the world with inspirations and ideas for the Addis Declaration. The Addis Declaration marks the first milestone in shaping the SBCC activities and outlines the future strategies and priorities for one of the key approach to healthy behavior. Learnings from the Summit will be helpful to design and develop SBCC interventions such as the messages, campaigns and capacity development activities and to further accelerate the SBCC activities in halting the transmission of HIV in Nepal.

This forum was definitely a broader platform for knowledge sharing and skill building and the learnings can be best replicated in Nepalese context.

Interested in learning more about the Springboard app? Download it here:


The Right Stuff for the Right Start: A Look at Child Health Sessions at the SBCC Summit

The Child Health-focused sessions at the SBCC Summit offer a wide variety of perspectives on how to reach parents, how to reach people who influence them and how to use the latest technology to do both.

Beginning on Monday, February 8, the session From the Pulpit to the People explores the many ways in which faith leaders influence caregivers in child care – be it nutrition, prevention of disease like Ebola or even sustaining a healthy marriage. Because faith leaders hold sway over so many and have a great deal of influence, many countries have utilized this influence to affect behavior change for better child health.

On Tuesday, From Silicon Valley to Sierra Leone will look at the evolving field of human-centered design, which is beginning to be applied to SBCC. It’s all about listening, empathy, prototyping and iteration. It’s new and it’s pretty fascinating to learn how Silicon Valley techniques are easily applied to in-country programs. Piecing the Puzzle Together tackles the difficult task of integration – how have programs addressed two or more health topics in a holistic and effective way?

Wednesday’s Communication for Development (C4D) session will cover programs dealing with child marriage, girls’ education, water and sanitation, and more. Another session that day – Moving the Message through Mobile – explores the use of mobile communication to reach thousands with few words, an area not altogether new in our world of SBCC, but is ever-changing and evolving. This session will cover tweeting and mobile messaging to improve child health – whether to remind mothers about their children’s upcoming appointments or to provide a bit of encouragement for continuing a new adopted behavior.

Massaging the Message on Wednesday afternoon will introduce you to programs which have used unique messages to enhance child health. For example, in Albania, modern family planning is promoted as a marital sex aid. The Right Stuff for the Right Start covers programs in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Senegal. In Ethiopia, for example, a “speaking book” was developed to help educate parents about immunization, and for older children, a “Healthy Whiz Kids” campaign encouraged kids to learn about their own health care.

The full range of child health topics, interventions, methodologies and results that will be presented at the Summit is pretty exciting – enjoy and learn!

Click here for a complete list of child health-focused sessions, and be sure to follow Summit updates via #SBCCSummit on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo: World Bank Photo Collection, Flickr

SBCC Summit Registration Extended to January 10


Conference Admission, Auxiliary Events and Exhibit Registration Extended to January 10, 2016

Organizers of the inaugural International SBCC Summit, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 8-10, 2016 have extended the registration deadline to midnight EST on Sunday, January 10, 2016. Updated visa information has also now been posted on the Summit’s website.

In early January, the Summit’s program will be posted. An exciting lineup of keynote speakers already has been announced, including this preliminary list:

  • Lebo Ramafoko, Executive Director, Soul City, South Africa
  • David T. Neal, Founder and Managing Partner, Catalyst Behavioral Sciences LLC
  • Matthew Willcox, Executive Director, institute of Decision Making
  • Norkor Duah, CEO, Lowe Accra & Vice President, International Advertising Association

For more information on registering for the Summit, traveling to Ethiopia and/or reserving an auxiliary event or exhibit, visit

Enter the Health Communication Student Competition for the Chance to Attend the SBCC Summit

SBCC Student Competitiion

The International SBCC Summit committee is seeking proposals from student teams for the SBCC Lion’s Den, a team-based health communication case competition that challenges students to design innovative, feasible and sustainable global health interventions.

Students will work in interdisciplinary teams to develop proposals targeted at real-life community health challenges and grounded in proven SBCC frameworks and theories.

The team with the strongest proposal and pitch will receive $5,000 to further develop their concept and implement a small-scale, six-month pilot project in their local community to demonstrate “proof of concept” and the potential for the intervention to be replicated and scaled.

Who will design the next health communication interventions that inspire and challenge fellow practitioners to see the field differently?

Will it be you?

Click here to view guidelines and apply!

Less Than One Month to Register for International SBCC Conference

Register today for the upcoming International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit to be held Feb. 8 – 10, 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Summit organizers are busy preparing the program after receiving nearly 600 abstracts. They are also finalizing an exciting lineup of keynote speakers, including this preliminary list:

  • Lebo Ramafoko, Executive Director, Soul City, South Africa
  • David T. Neal, Founder and Managing Partner, Catalyst Behavioral Sciences LLC
  • Matthew Willcox, Executive Director, institute of Decision Making
  • Norkor Duah, CEO, Lowe Accra & Vice President, International Advertising Association

Remember that registration closes Dec. 31. Summit participants should be mindful of Ethiopian immigration policies and the time it may take to get a visa. Once you have registered, you will be sent an invitation letter and be asked to complete a secure online form with details for Ethiopia’s immigration officials.

More on visas for summit participants can be found on the Summit website.

Information on Hotel Reservations and Poster Guidelines for SBCC Summit 

Visitors to know the countdown is ON until the SBCC Summit kicks off February 8-102016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the United Nations Conference Centre.

New details are available for both presenters and attendees:

All accepted presenters have been contacted and have until November 30 to confirm their attendance and register. The program schedule and agenda will be released mid-December. Deadline to register is December 31.

Follow Summit developments on Twitter using the #SBCCSummit hashtag. See you in Addis!