This conference plans to address the following two key challenges:
Challenge 1: What works?
The increasing relevance of SBCC to 21st century development challenges is being accompanied by a recognition of the evidence that supports it. A 2013 Evidence Summit on population level behavior change and child survival, and subsequent journal articles, are being followed up by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s effort to improve the technical reporting guidelines for SBCC initiatives so they can be more robustly understood, critiqued and built on. WHO has also started to put together a business case for SBCC interventions focused on community engagement, something the 2018 Summit will hear more about. UNICEF, together with other SBCC stakeholders, is exploring mechanisms to strengthen the update of SBCC evidence in development programs.
However, donors and others who support the field, and development policy makers who want to prioritize it, face major challenges in understanding what works and what does not work, what they can expect from an investment in this area and explaining its impact to sometimes skeptical publics. This conference will not only showcase different interventions, but also critique them with a view to enabling better processes to assess and generate insight around what we know about what works. Ultimately, it will seek to determine what it takes to ensure that policy and decision makers in the development sector feel sufficiently confident to invest decisively in strengthening the field.
And we will discuss what we mean by “what works”. For example, what works over a period of a few months through an intense messaging campaign may prove to have little sustainable long-term impact, whereas an approach that appears to show little short-term impact may over years prove to have been decisive (or possibly vice versa).
Challenge 2: Making Sense of Now
There is no shortage of ideas or initiative when it comes to using communication to achieve social and behavior change. The modern field of SBCC is a product of decades of innovation and involves traditions as diverse as commercial marketing, participatory media, creative media production, civil society advocacy, not to mention the different strands rooted in the diverse public health, agriculture, governance, rights and other development fields where media and communication have been considered important. This field has, thanks to events such as the 2016 SBCC Summit, become more coherent, organized and effective, but it operates in one of the fastest changing arenas of any in the development sphere.
The speed of change is in part a product of the transformative shifts in information and communication technology, which has, in turn, generated a range of new digitally, focused approaches to addressing SBCC challenges. The innovation generated by new ideas and approaches has sometimes been seen to be in tension with the growing focus and necessity for generating evidence of what works and what does not. The conference will seek to discuss such tensions.
Technology is not the only source of innovation and, potentially, constructive disruption. The growing popularity among governments of drawing on behavioral economics and setting up behavioral insights teams has led to a different locus for addressing behavior change problems in public policy. Quite often, the approaches of behavioral economics and more traditional SBCC interventions are similar or at least complementary, but the approaches have, when it comes to implementation, often been siloed. The Summit will seek to enable a constructive and clear conversation across these and other complementary fields. These include the growing adoption of human-centered design (HCD), adaptive management (AM) and doing development differently (DDD) approaches in development policy.
Multiple other actors – including many civil society organizations – are increasingly using media and communication approaches in their own work to shift social norms, change behavior or amplify voice, pointing to the need for more attention to be given to this field of work. Making sense of these different approaches, creating connections between them and exploring how they can become better strategically aligned or integrated will be a key focus for the conference.
The Summit will address these challenges through 3 primary themes: 1) What Works, 2) Making Sense of the Field Now, and 3) Agenda and Voice Setting.