Communications for Development (C4D): Social and Behavior Change communications (SBCC)

Responsenet uses a variety of approaches to practice social and behavioral change (SBCC). One of our key strategies is to collaborate with families and community leaders to understand their needs and motivations, as well as to remove barriers to positive change. We believe that it is essential to change the conditions in which people act rather than just changing people’s knowledge.

Responsenet’s programs combine local expertise with scientific ideas to help disadvantaged communities across various social sectors in India. We work actively with women and children to deepen their roles in building the communities they deserve. Responsenet envisions a society where fairness reigns and discrimination fades away, and encourages involvement and responsibility to give families greater influence over the decisions that affect their lives.

Responsenet applies methodologies from applied developmental psychology and creates human-centered designs to implement their research and create the change that families believe is most important. Communication and community participation remains key to our work, and we have a strong organizational workforce on the ground. Overall, Responsenet has been a leader in social and behavioral change for over 15 years, and our work aims to empower communities and individuals to achieve their full potential.

What is SBCC? 

Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) is the purposeful use of communication strategies to influence shifts in knowledge, attitudes, norms, beliefs, and behaviors. SBCC also known as “Communication for Development (C4D),” is an interactive process in which individuals, groups, or communities develop communication strategies promoting conscious attitudes to achieve optimal health outcomes. These behavioral changes, appropriate to their societal settings are crucial in order to raise awareness about the most pressing health issues.
In this process, the objective is to create a supportive atmosphere that will allow people to begin, develop, and maintain beneficial & desirable behavior outputs. SBCC strategies are based on well-established behavioral intervention theories and models. It takes a methodical approach which begins with primary research of the specific social settings and behavioral analysis of the people.  This progresses through communication design, execution, monitoring, and evaluation. Beneficiaries are carefully segmented, messages and materials are pre-tested, and mass media (including radio, television, billboards, print material, and the internet), interpersonal channels (such as client-provider interaction, group presentations, and community mobilization) are used to achieve defined behavioral objectives.

Behaviour is a complicated phenomenon that is impacted by elements both within and beyond the individual. The Social Ecological Model, which is based on Bronfenbrenner’s foundational work from 1979, acknowledges four levels of influence that interact to impact behavior: The 4 levels are individual, family, and peer networks, community, and social/structural.

Individual: At this level, behavior is impacted by the inculcated personal traits of a person like knowledge, attitudes, skills, emotions, and beliefs. For example, Individuals must understand the hazards of transmission and how to prevent it in order to practice the desired behaviors during an outbreak. They must also recognize that they are at risk of transmission and have the ability to exercise preventative measures.  

Family and peer networks: Individuals tend to get most impacted by the people they are surrounded with for the maximum time,  like their family and friends. For example, The behavioral patterns observed in close proximity to the close ones as to how they approach support vulnerable populations during a pandemic will also impact the decision-making of the individual.

Community: This refers to influences from the situational context in which the individual lives and in which his/her social relationships are nested. The characteristics of the context are associated with risk and protective factors and include leadership, access to information, service provision, social capital, and collective efficacy.

For Example, Individuals are more likely to practice desired behaviors if leaders who have an influence on the community promote them. Like during gram panchayats, awareness drives organized by local authorities, etc. 

Social/Structural: This refers to the larger, macro-level environment which can either promote or deter behaviors. Examples include health systems, resources and services, policies, guidance and protocols, religious and cultural values, media and technology, gender norms, and income equity.

Example: During an outbreak, individuals are more likely to engage in desired behaviors if facilities exist that support those behaviors, if coordination mechanisms are in place, and if bylaws and policies are introduced to promote supportive norms around the desired behaviors.

How to implement SBCC

  • Identify and state program goals
  • Involve stakeholders
  • Identify the targeted beneficiaries 
  • Conduct formative need assessments
  • Segment target populations
  • Define behavior change objectives
  • Define SBCC strategy & monitoring and evaluation plan
  • Develop communication products
  • Pretest
  • Implement and monitor
  • Evaluate
  • Analyze feedback and revise
  • Vulnerability/risk factor of the target group.
  • The vulnerability/risk factor of the group is to be addressed.
  • The conflict and obstacles in the way to the desired change in behavior.
  • Type of message and communication media which can best be used to reach the target group.
  • Type of resources available and assessment of existing knowledge of the target group about the issue which is going to be dealt with.

Effective SBCC interventions should aim to develop messages and activities that influence all four levels of the Social-Ecological Model, maximizing the facilitators and limiting the barriers.

It is important to recognize, however, that it is unlikely for one single organization to be able to operate at all four levels, as these often require different skills, strategies, and approaches. Coordination and partnerships with institutions and organizations that operate at different levels are therefore necessary for a comprehensive SBCC approach.

Importance of SBCC during outbreaks and disasters

During disease outbreaks and emergencies, specific actions are required of affected communities for prevention, containment, and control. Communities need to be informed, motivated and equipped to practice the necessary protective behaviors, and this can be achieved through effective SBCC programming. Social and behavior change communication plays a critical role in addressing all the behavioral and social aspects of disease prevention and control.

  • It can provide accurate, clear, relevant, and timely information to the public on how to contain an emergency.
  •  Can make them aware of ways to protect themselves
  •  Identify and address myths and misconceptions that may lead to detrimental practices.
  • Maintain public trust
  • Prepare communities for emergency response actions
  • Support communities and countries to recover and rebuild themselves after an emergency

If an emergency response does not include strategically applied communication activities, it is unlikely to succeed as desired. This is demonstrated by the tragic Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, when lack of adequate and appropriate communication early on in the response fueled fear, panic, and denial; spread misconceptions and rumors; and contributed to the further spread of the disease.

SBCC has therefore been acknowledged as a key element of any crisis or emergency preparedness plan and should be integrated into all stages of an emergency response – from prevention and preparedness through to crisis response and recovery. At the beginning of an emergency, the role of SBCC is to engage the public, support them in making informed decisions about their risks and encourage them to respond effectively to those risks. The communication and related pillars will ensure that response activities are accompanied by appropriate communication interventions. Key areas in which the emergency communication pillar may intervene include:

  • Coordination
  • Community mobilization and action
  • Message development and dissemination
  • Capacity development
  • Monitoring and evaluation (M&E)


Why is SBCC important for children? 

Improving service accessibility to social infrastructure does not inevitably promote a needy family’s well-being. Caregivers may struggle to access resources designed to aid their children.  The worth of a social scheme isn’t always apparent. At times, it fails to address an underlying issue or an invisible barrier to access. Parents may choose not to send their adolescent children to school, or they may choose not to vaccinate their children due to a lack of awareness. Parents act in this manner not out of malice or a lack of knowledge, but because the context of their decision extends beyond the aim of the programs intended to assist them.

The majority of the deprivations that children face are symptomatic of deeper issues, such as deeply ingrained power imbalances or beliefs that manifest themselves via destructive behaviors and discriminatory institutions. In such circumstances, safeguarding children’s rights entails altering the mechanisms that govern how societies share power.


How does Responsenet practice social and behavior change?

Responsenet believes that altering the source of knowledge alone will not result in behavioral changes. We collaborate with families and community leaders to understand their needs and motivations, discover their strengths, and remove barriers to positive change. Our SBCC programs across various social sectors all over India combine local expertise with scientific ideas to help the most disadvantaged. We don’t seek to change people; we strive to change the conditions in which they act, making it simpler for individuals and communities to embrace their rights and duties.
We also realize that to improve the conditions for families struggling every day, social transformation is a must. We work actively with women and children all across the country to deepen their roles in building the communities they deserve. We envision societies through SBCC in which fairness reigns and discrimination of all sorts fade in the background. Ultimately, their own voices contribute to real changes. Above all, we encourage involvement and responsibility in order to offer families greater influence over the decisions that affect their lives. Responsenet has been a leader in social and behavioral change for over 15 years with a strong organizational workforce on the ground. While communication and community participation remains key to our work, we also apply methodologies from applied developmental psychology and create human-centered designs. We implement our research to create the change that families believe to be most important.