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What is Behaviour Change Communication (BCC)?

In the field of Communication for Development (C4D) there are many different communication approaches, such as social mobilization, advocacy, entertainment education, community media, behaviour change communication (BCC) and many, many more. Here we will focus on the approach of Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) is one of them. This approach has more traditionally been used in health communication programs, but has recently been used more often in social issue programs, such as gender violence, anti-human trafficking, anti-wildlife trafficking, gender equality, etc. It has been proven time and time again that providing people with information and teaching them how they should behave, such as awareness raising, does not necessarily lead to desirable change in their behavior. For example, just because one might know that smoking is not good for their health, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will take action to quit smoking.

Thus, BCC is the strategic use of communication to promote positive health/behaviour outcomes, based on proven theories and models of behaviour change. It is a research-based and consultative process for addressing knowledge, attitudes and practices (or behaviours) that are linked to a particular project. It includes working with individuals, and communities and societies to develop communication strategies to promote positive behaviour and to provide a support environment which will enable people to initiate and sustain positive behaviours. It involves face-to-face dialogue with individuals or groups to inform, motivate, problem solve or plan, with the objective to promote and sustain behaviour change. BCC employs a systematic process beginning with formative research and behaviour analysis, followed by communication planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation. Audiences are carefully segmented, messages and materials are pre-tested, and both mass media and interpersonal channels are used to achieve defined behavioral objectives.

Behaviour and social change communication (SCC) are often discussed as one approach, however some organisations like UNICEF believe they are two different approaches that are highly complementary to one another. BCC strategies focus on the individual, whereas SCC focuses on the community as the unit of change. According to UNICEF, SCC is a process of of transformation in the way society is organised. In order for behaviour to change on a large scale, “certain harmful cultural practices, societal norms, and structural inequalities have to be taken into consideration.”

Creative, entertaining communication programs, using both mass media and interpersonal channels and informed by careful audience research and pre-testing, are one of the core components of successful behaviour change interventions. The most effective messages will 1) promote benefits that people really want, 2) provide the audience with information to allow them to recognize that they have the ability to change, and 3) convince people that the change is socially acceptable and even popular.

Now for a fun read: TOP 10 Mistakes in Behaviour Change Communication by the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab

  1. Relying on willpower for long-term change. Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. That’s step 1 to a better future.
  2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps. Seek tiny successes — one after another.
  3. Ignoring how environment shapes behavior. Change your context & you change your life.
  4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones. Focus on action, not avoidance.
  5. Blaming failures on lack of motivation. Solution: Make the behavior easier to do.
  6. Underestimating the power of triggers. No behavior happens without a trigger.
  7. Believing that information leads to action. We humans aren’t so rational.
  8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors. Abstract: Get in shape; Concrete: Walk 15 min. today.
  9. Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time. A fixed period works better than “forever.”
  10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult. Behavior change is not so hard when you have the right process.


Edited by Emily Cholette.

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