UNICEF’s approach to social and behavior change

UNICEF was one of the first organizations to practice and advocate for the use of social and behavior change approaches. UNICEF sees behavior and social change as complementary techniques used to define and address people’s individual, interpersonal and social influences. UNICEF has a Communications for Development Division (C4D), which integrates social and behavior change approaches into UNICEF’s programs throughout the developing world.

UNICEF currently uses the Social Ecological Model (SEM) framework to  analyse the barriers and benefits across all levels of the community. This analysis informs interventions that cover and connect all levels of action to address the various systemic and behavioral influences. UNICEF supports strategies across the behavior and social change continuum, and urges that a combination of approaches be utilized in order to ensure meaningful change is sustained.

Perhaps one of the best UNICEF examples is the Meena Communication Initiative in South Asia. This school-based children’s program features a confident, nine-year-old girl who experiences the world – whether in her efforts to go to school or in fighting the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in her village. The initiative uses a combination of mass media and interpersonal communication (through change agents) to enhance children’s self-esteem and self-worth and enable them to learn the life skills essential for their safety and prosperity. It is this combination of a social movement with behavioral interventions that makes Meena a good example for others to consider.

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