Why a Social Norms Workshop?

The major paradigms that have influenced many NGO’s work in the area of behavioral change are based on deficiency models which assume that people lack the necessary information to understand and change their behavior, and that behavioral change is an individual choice. Thus the more information the better, and information is conceived of as the major determinant of family and individual behavioral changes. Accordingly, the main strategies in the last several decades have aimed to change behaviors through information campaigns. To their credit, these strategies have succeeded in raising awareness on many social issues but change in attitude has not necessarily been matched by changes in behaviors and social norms. Unfortunately, many available theories of social norms are hardly practical in that they lack measurement (and diagnostic) capabilities. We provide an influential new theory of social norms that allows for measurement and diagnostics, as well as monitoring social change and sustainability of change in different programmatic areas (Bicchieri 2006, 2016). During the workshop, we will present our concrete social norms framework with its corresponding implications for measurements, successful interventions and sustainable change.

Sample Agenda

Throughout the workshop, the social norms framework will be consistently applied through examples and activities to three programmatic areas: Water and Sanitation; Adolescent Violence and Child Marriage; and Quality of Provider Care. Participants will be able to further explore social norms in these areas during the breakout sessions.

Day 1: Key Concepts and Measurement

The goal of the first day is to introduce the core ideas in Bicchieri’s operationalized theory of social norms and, subsequently, demonstrate where traditional measures for social indicators, such as those found in the Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice surveys, fall short.

During the first day of the workshop participants will learn about: different types of action (independent vs. interdependent), different types of expectation (empirical vs. normative), different types of behavior (customs vs. descriptive norms vs. social norms), and how to identify and diagnose each in practical programmatic contexts such as open defecation and water functionality.

After which, participants will engage in hands-on learning by collaboratively constructing measures for behavior and empirical expectations relevant to their area of expertise.

Day 2: Measurement

The second day will begin where the first day left off, focusing on how to construct measures for the other elements of the theory including personal normative beliefs and normative expectations. Gaining a practical understanding of these concepts is crucial since understanding the motivation behind social behaviors is the key to enacting sustainable social change.

Day 3: Norm Change, Adoption or Abandonment

Building on this understanding, the final phase of the workshop will focus on common features of norm creation and change, under what circumstances norms emerge, and how to induce norm change. This will build on all the knowledge developed in the workshop and may introduce further ideas such as core groups, trendsetters, group monitoring and the efficacy of community involvement.

Other Topics for More Extensive Courses

Understanding Social Networks:

Presentation of social networks, social network analysis, and the flow of persuasion and attitude change in different network topologies. Depending on the structure of the network, information may flow freely or instead be thwarted, may spread quickly or slowly, and may be more or less credible. Diagrams of actual social networks from empirical studies will illustrate concepts. Network analysis guides identification and mobilization of key individuals and groups in the social network, which allows for efficient workshop design.

Legal Norms and Social Norms:

Criminalization is frequently applied against harmful social norms, and frequently fails to alter them. Why? There is good evidence that moral and social motivations to comply with the law are more important than legal sanctions. A law can be ineffective because there is a weak social norm of legal obedience in the area, the legal norm is too far from the social norm, or both. How law can retard or promote change in a social norm.  The advisability of an integrated moral-social-legal approach to behavioral change.

Scripts and Schemata:

Norms are part of more general, shared cognitive structures that include values, roles, rules, factual and normative beliefs, expectations and causal attributions. Schemata and scripts affect perceptions and the interpretation of what we observe, and dictate appropriate behavioral reactions. To change a norm, it is often necessary to restructure the cognitive framework that supports it and gives it its meaning. For example, gender violence is supported by shared roles, values and expectations about appropriate behavior of men and women. We shall examine how schemata are maintained, the cognitive biases that support them, and present several models of schema change. The non-linear relationship between schema change and norm change will be analyzed.