Accelerating Transformational Change: Melinda McKay reflects on the International SBCC Summit 2022

December 19th, 2022 | Viewpoint

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Earlier this month Morocco made football history. What a time to find myself in vibrant Marrakech at the International SBCC Summit alongside 1,800 fellow change champions and 38 JSI colleagues, including staff from the recently acquired Manoff Group. Energy and enthusiasm were high in and outside the venue. As I reflect on the Summit’s theme of ‘accelerating transformational change,’ three concepts stand out:

  1. Proving SBC’s value when change takes time. We all struggle with this. The interrelated drivers and confounding variables of behavior, a lack of relevant and timely data, and the entrenched nature of norms make timely, actionable behavior change measurement a challenge. It was exciting to see people’s interest in JSI’s mission to rethink SBC measurement, with over 100 ideas posted on our booth panel and nearly 200 generated during our Change Pathway auxiliary event. Key themes included standardizing intermediate measures of success for long-term change; identifying change tipping points; and advocating for initial and iterative evaluation along with the value of process and qualitative measures. JSI’s Behavior Initiative will explore these in our thought leadership agenda for 2023 and share updates on its progress widely and often.
  2. Behavior change by and for whom? There was a call to increase community participation in program design, implementation, and evaluation. Agreed! But the development community must aim to convene, not control. We must foster mutual and respectful cooperation with proximate leaders, and decentralize authority for changes sought to the local level. Putting people at the center of programming and health care is vital to making change transformational. This will also help expand the concept of behavior change from the personal to the systemic. Change should not be the burden of the individual, often the default in many projects. Sometimes the system needs to change for the person.
  3. We must seize the moment! The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that a medicalized approach alone is insufficient to overcome public health challenges. But its disruption has sparked revaluation and changes in behavior, from the personal to the political level. Social and behavior change has gained legitimacy in many circles and behavioral science has helped us manage and mitigate the pandemic. We must work to normalize behavioral thinking in development more broadly, especially in relation to our work on the climate crisis and health. This will require determined effort, as many at the Summit still grapple with the concept of behavioral science and the vast opportunities it offers for solving complex problems and accelerating change. I’ll say more on this in a separate article.

I leave you with a short video highlighting the 22 sessions in which JSI staff presented and our auxiliary event, at which roughly 100 guests bravely discussed SBC measurement amidst snakes, musicians, and acrobats (thanks to our staff and special guests who made this event so successful). You’ll also glimpse our booth, which featured local decorations and giveaways from the Marrakech medina. Viva Maroc and thank you for hosting us during such a special time.

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