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How to use data to gain insights into your target population and reflect them back into your Covid-19 behaviour change programmes

Every1Mobile framework for digital behaviour change

We have been building successful adaptive digital behaviour change programmes for the last three years that enact real life change through the digital space with the support of TRANSFORM, a public-private partnership between Unilever and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

We base our understanding of behavioural drivers on the Fogg behavioural model. This demonstrates that a behaviour happens when there is a convergence between 3 aspects: when an individual is prompted to perform a behaviour, they are motivated to do so and they have the ability to do so.

Applied to the context of digital behaviour change, this theoretical framework works to drive two behaviours:

The first behaviour you want to drive is the engagement with your digital solution. That means that when your target users are introduced to your technology, it is accessible to them and they are motivated to access it due to a strong value proposition. This comes down to using human centered design approaches so that your solution is practically accessible and has a strong value proposition with their particular context, combined with thoughtful promotional activities through trusted networks. When this works well, you can think of your target users moving from the “real world” space to the digital space, and they begin to interact with your programme. 

The second behaviour you want to drive is usually the ultimate outcome we are aiming for – real world behaviour, such as handwashing with soap. So now your digital solution is the intervention that gives your target users the motivation and ability to enact the real world behaviours. So you can think of them moving from the digital space in the real world, but with the tools and motivation they need to drive the outcome.

The understanding of this theoretical framework therefore provides the context for how running a digital behaviour change programme offers the opportunity to use data to optimise every stage of this process.

There are many advantages to using a digital platform to run a behaviour change programme. Of particular relevance to this topic is the fact that simply by operating an intervention digitally, we have access to real time data that enables us to understand how it is performing, and adapt accordingly. The nature of digital delivery means that we have a range of different types of data at our fingertips, and we don’t have to wait for standard monitoring cycles. In addition to this, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many more programmatic components to move online. Restrictions on people’s movements, from social distancing to curfews and lockdowns, have limited face to face interaction and reinforced the need to harness digital tools so programmes can be implemented remotely.


3 Take-Home Lessons 

Lessons we have learnt from running adaptive digital behaviour change programmes, which also display how we are applying them in our COVID behaviour change work.

1. Learning about learning

A big part of any behaviour change programme, digital or not, is about taking people on a learning journey. That’s part of how we build ability and motivation through making the outcome behaviour understood; Feasible, Relevant and Desirable, which relates back to the framework.

As part of our NaijaCare programme we have the NaijaCare Academy – a series of e-learning courses designed to drive improved business practices and strengthen healthcare delivery through taking PPMVs on a learning journey that builds knowledge and confidence. Through building a series of digital learning journeys, we have learned a lot about how PPMVs learn. Whereas our first course was long and theoretical, and had a lot of attrition, we have reviewed the attrition points within our courses, gathered
feedback from users, and we now focus on a practical scenario based style that works for them. 90% of those who start our most recent course have gone on to complete it. We are about to launch a new course to help PPMVs act as COVID health information agents in their communities and are confident engagement will be strong.


2. User experience trumps data collection

We focus on building user experiences that prioritise driving the desired behaviour, and have a secondary benefit of giving us the data and user insight we need. It can often be the case that websites and apps use pop-up surveys asking about your experience in order to improve their service, however it can seem to benefit the people who run the service more than the user.

For instance, in our U Afya programme in Kenya, we aim to drive a range of household hygiene behaviours amongst mums and mums-to-be in the informal settlements around Nairobi. We developed a Handwashing Challenge to offer a way for our users to model the desired behaviour – through simple daily challenges. For example, today make sure your children wash their hands before eating. The mums perform the behaviour in the real world then use the challenge tool to track their own progress.  On completion of their daily challenge, users receive a “thank you” message, confirmation of their progress in the challenge and additional information in the form of “Did you know”.

The next day, the next challenge will appear. By returning over multiple days, the women start to create and reinforce the habit.

This design draws from techniques in the Behaviour Change Wheel by Michie et al, as well as the Behaviour Change levers employed by Unilever and Lifebuoy in their “Way of Life” campaign. Although its primary purpose is as a behaviour change tool – it can also provide us with rich data about how users are putting what they have learned into practice in the real world.


3. Users not audiences

Note that the language of this article refers to users, not audiences. Too many digital interventions have seen mobile simply as a tool to push messaging at people, or extract data from them. In real life – behaviours are complex and messy. They are shaped not only by what you know, but by how you feel. Genuine shifts in behaviour take time to evolve and embed, and require a more nuanced set of influencing approaches. Done right, mobile can be a way to do just that.

We’ve gathered a lot of insight from running the U Afya programme over the last few years – building up more and more interactivity and opportunities for our users to engage in ways that build their confidence as well as their knowledge. Here’s some results from a longitudinal study we ran with a cohort of U Afya users – showing strong shifts not just in knowledge, but in confidence, self-efficacy and intended behaviour.

In recent months, we’ve built on that learning to create rich engaging experiences for our users to actively interact with to drive behaviour change – specifically on COVID. Both within U Afya and on dedicated new sites. For example, we’ve created pledges, action reporting and a COVID peer ambassador programme to name a few.

As highlighted in this article, using data to gain insights into your target population and iterate behaviour change programmes in real time drives deeper engagement, which means increased impact and greater value for money. Looking to the future, meaningful digital behaviour programmes will need to be adaptive and iterative in order to achieve successful outcomes for both users and implementers.


If you are interested in learning more about how Every1Mobile can help you create data-driven digital behaviour change programmes, please contact our Director of Business Development, Jocelyn Williams, at