Featured Member: Bonnie Kittle
Bonnie Kittle is a member of Designing for Behavior Change - an Interest Group of the FSN Network. Bonnie is an independent consultant who, among other things, carries out field-level trainings on the designing for behavior change framework, in care groups, and much more.
This interview was conducted with Bonnie in May 2014.
Patrick: How did you first get interested in social and behavioral change?
Bonnie: When I came back to the U.S. in 2004/5, I joined back up with CORE Group and needed to join one of their working groups. The Social and Behavior Change Working Group was the one that really attracted me because behavior change crosses many of the other working groups. I was really a generalist throughout my whole life, so when I looked at the working groups, I thought this one would allow me to have my finger in all of the pies.
P: How have you used the designing for behavior change (DBC) framework in your work?
B: Whenever I get called upon to help a project to design a behavior change strategy, I use the DBC framework because it is the easiest, most straightforward tool for people to understand and because it is evidence based. It helps people to understand that it is no longer acceptable to guess why people are feel they can’t adopt a new behavior or why some people have adopted the behavior, despite the challenges. It obliges you to really ask them, which is the respectful way to go about a behavior change design.
P: What is the thing that you see people struggle with the most with the DBC framework?
B: Once they do the formative research and get the results, people often have difficulty being creative about how to use those results—what activities they should develop. Most people have never been called upon to design new activities and may not feel authorized or qualified to do that. So we struggle with trying to get people to feel authorized and enabled to design new activities; activities that address the Bridges to Activities.
P: What advice do you have for those grappling with this challenge?
B: I try to tell people to think outside of the box and to look at the Bridges to Activities and the context in which the activity would have to happen (the places where the priority group lives) and think about what they could do to address those Bridges. Another challenge is that you shouldn’t be creating a separate activity for every Bridge. You need to think of as few activities as possible to address as many of those Bridges as possible.
I recommend that people brain storm about activities in a small group so that they are bouncing ideas off of each other. You often get inspired by other people’s ideas and comments.
P: What are some of the most interesting ways that you’ve seen organizations use the DBC framework?
B: People are using it now on different topics, which is really exciting. Now there is a lot more work being done in urban areas … and to design agricultural interventions which are new and interesting, and on topics like gender-based violence or violence in a civil war. For example, I have a friend in the Central African Republic who will be designing a behavior change strategy using the DBC and Barrier Analysis to help youth to settle their conflicts in a non-violent, peaceful way.
One great thing about the DBC Framework is that you don’t need a different tool for each technical sector – it can be used with them all. This helps people from different sectors within the same organization to work together more effectively.
P: What do you feel are one of the most intriguing questions when it comes to social and behavioral change?
B: People often think that behavior change takes a long time—so what do you do if you only have a short project? A one or two year project in an emergency? It’s a myth that all behavior change takes a long time. Behaviors will change quite quickly if you hit on the right thing.
One of the most interesting questions that someone asked me in Haiti is, what is the difference between a behavior change and an adaptation? For example, what is the difference between someone living in an IDP camp and adapting their behavior because they have not choice, given the circumstances, and someone truly changing their behavior for the long term?
I think many behaviors change initially as part of an adaptation. In an emergency situation, it is often more obvious because people have to adapt immediately because they no longer have a house, no longer get their water in the same way, you don’t know your neighbors like you did before. Then on top of the initial adaptations, a group comes in saying “here are some other behaviors we want you to adopt…such as hand washing - so you don’t get cholera”. So people will do it initially because they feel more vulnerable, or because access to a service or product has suddenly improved. Whether these people continue to practice the behaviors after the emergency, is a topic that hasn’t been measured well. I think that would be a really interesting study for a grad student.