by Nirmalya Mukherjee, MSW, MPH, Director, MANT, India
The maiden International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on and from 8th February to 10th February 2016, offered a valuable opportunity for the practitioners and students to interact with one another and share valuable resources and successful models which could be of use in the coming days in the so far unexplored areas with new and defined target groups. The critical analysis of what we have been doing is also important for all of us who have been implementing various SBCC projects in many parts of the world and have been engaged in a comprehensive struggle for establishing social justice. The speakers debated over many issues including the cutting-edge approaches of SBCC which is really thought-provoking, I believe.
It is really interesting to interact with people who have been in this field of work for a long time, say-20-30 years. The evolution of the pattern over the years discussed by them reasserts that there is no need for re-scripting the narratives of it again and again. In addition, in many subsequent sessions it was clearly mentioned how the individual behaviour change approaches have been replaced by the approach called “rights-based-communication for social change”. Result oriented SBCC as opined, needs interventions that are grounded on research and theories, and based on sound and facile documentation, recording and reporting, monitoring, and evaluation and for that matter regular review of planning and managing processes should be in place. It is discussed in great detail that SBCC interventions should not be a stand-alone initiative rather it should be multi-dimensional and multi- disciplinary in its approach to bring wider and palpable impact in the target community. A mix of communication channels is also a widely accepted approach which appeared successful when presented. Various factors and structural influences, as discussed, are also to be looked into in conceptualizing, planning and managing SBCC programmes. On the other hand, contemporary research findings combined with theoretical frameworks should be taken care of in conceiving SBCC interventions as found in many presentations.
It is a fact that many SBCC interventions have succeeded in achieving the desired goals pertaining to generating awareness among target audiences across the world. Approaches such as traditional ones like radio programmes, print media, street plays/theatre for development, localised IPC and mass media campaigns; IC- based new approaches like social media campaign, campaign through mobile phones and the like have been used to promote healthy behaviour. It is noteworthy that the advent of new technologies, proliferation of contents/messages and presence of many communication channels empowered us to have many tools in our toolbox that were never tested or used before. Many programmes, as presented, have been implemented in many countries simultaneously with considerable success.
However, it is also a fact that many SBCC initiatives have failed to go beyond awareness generation. Information provided to the target audiences is felt necessary but it is not sufficient for addressing the social problems and changing the behaviour in the desired direction.
Hence, with celebration of many successful initiatives, the failures of SBCC interventions must be discussed in details to learn from the mistakes committed and thereby avoid those mistakes in future interventions. In addition, the small initiatives with great potential of scalability should also be given the due importance it demands. The initiatives generating the same evidence should be replaced by such small ones which could be implemented to generate new evidence.
Lastly, a Summit like this should be organised at regular intervals to give the opportunity to all who have been engaged in the SBCC programme implementation to share and learn from real life experiences which, I believe, will form the foundation of real learning, providing a scope for replication. After all, a success is a success, is a success! Kudos to the organizers for conceiving and organizing the summit, which has been long overdue, and thereby providing for the concerned ones an appropriate platform for a discussion on SBCC!!