Understanding brings coexistence

Understanding brings coexistence. To achieve prosperous behaviour change the community plays a crucial role and with it the understanding of behavioural determinants that influence them. Understanding runs much deeper than knowledge, there are many people who know us but very few who understand us.


January 26, 2020

We want to take you on a journey to help you understand behaviours in your community. The more you understand your community, the more you can help and shift behaviours towards coexistence.

To understand your community, you should look at the behavioural determinants, which are barriers and drivers that influence behaviour positively or negatively. Formative research is carried out to identify determinants and assess what can be changed to promote coexistence. The principal behavioural determinants are:

Access and availability: You want to know whether your community can perform the new behaviour. You want to understand what tools are available and if behaviour change is possible in the current setting. For instance, if you are building chilli fences to mitigate human-elephant conflict, you might want to understand if the community has access to tools to build and maintain fences.

Product attributes: Very important and often forgotten. You want to assess the community buy-in in whatever product, activity or system you are bringing in. Here you want to gaze at community acceptance, usability and attractiveness of the intervention.

Quality of the product: Following the product attributes, you can now question whether the product is reliable and fulfils its purpose. If we are talking about the chilli fences mentioned earlier, do they break? Can they be easily fixed? How can they be better?

Social norms: Each community and each individual is different. Understanding the social norms of the community you are working with is the key to success. Are there any social norms that can deter change? Are there any social norms that can promote change?

Sanctions: Although not being the best tool for behaviour change, understanding the relationship the community has with law enforcement can give some indications on how to implement the activity. Research about existing sanctions and the knowledge the community has on them as well as the effectiveness and the enforcement they have.

Knowledge: This determinant shows how much your audience knows about human-wildlife coexistence, conflict mitigation, human-nature interconnectedness, habitat loss, consequences, etc. Test them and identify potential knowledge gaps that you can fill to promote coexistence.

Skills: Besides the level of knowledge, can your community perform the behaviour? What is their level of literacy? What skills do they have? Can they build tools if necessary? Can they find solutions to emergencies? Can they deal with conflict?

Social support: Sometimes, social norms can turn against a positive behaviour or coexistence, and those who want to coexist, lack social support, which then becomes a strong barrier. In the end, we are social beings and support from our peers is important for our empowerment. Is there peer pressure? Does the community validate coexistence or is it against it? Are there community support systems in place?

Roles and decisions: You want to understand who is stirring social norms (community leaders, household lead, etc) and understand the structure and decisions each one takes. Do women and men have the same roles? Who makes the decisions in the community? Who has the power to influence?

Affordability: Unfortunately, money talks, and sometimes, behaviour change can’t take place because people can’t afford to do so. For this, you want to understand their income, what they depend on for a living and the money they can spare to mitigate conflict.

Beliefs and attitudes: This is very important, especially in tribal communities. Here you want to understand the potential beliefs that can deter behaviour change and the ones that can promote change.

Values: What does your community value? Do they have a value system? Is the value system modern or traditional? Who influences values? Understanding this and linking it to the social norms can help you get an idea of the community social dynamics.

Priorities: Established by beliefs, values or social norms, priorities can vary between nurture, status, security, acceptance, income, and more.

Willingness to pay: Putting aside the affordability determinant, you want to know if, being the product affordable, people would still pay for it, which is not always the case because it might not be perceived as a priority.

Intention: On the line of attitudes, you have to understand if the community recognises the need to change and if they want to change. Otherwise, there is some work to do previous to the implementation around transforming behavioural barriers into drivers.

Outcome expectation: Finally, if you manage to have the community on board, what are the expectations the community has when going through this process?

Once you can identify and assess some of these behavioural determinants, you will then be one step closer to build the right behaviour change strategy to promote coexistence in the community you are working with. Understanding your community is the only way to success. Understanding runs much deeper than knowledge, there are many people who know us but very few who understand us says Nicolas Cage. Understanding brings change.

**Note this is the second article of a series to be published around Behaviour Change. Stay tuned and don’t miss out on the upcoming articles!

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