Changing people’s behaviour is no easy matter. Having developed a method that has been shown to promote behaviour change, Hans-Joachim Mosler of Eawag’s Environmental Social Sciences department has now set up a consulting firm – attracting considerable interest among development cooperation professionals in particular. By Mirella Wepf
Helvetas, the SDC, GIZ, the Red Cross, Oxfam, Unicef – the list of partners involved in Hans‑Joachim Mosler’s research projects reads like a Who’s Who of international development cooperation. Mosler, an adjunct professor of social and environmental psychology, joined Eawag in 2002 and now leads the Environmental and Health Psychology group in the Environmental Social Sciences department. His Ranas behaviour change model, developed over the past 15 years, has been scientifically evaluated in more than 30 large-scale research projects.
Currently, for example, as part of a project sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he and a 30-strong team are investigating how the construction and sustained use of toilets can best be promoted among communities in the Northern Region of Ghana. To date, open defecation has been widely practised in this area, exposing children in particular to serious health risks (infection with various pathogens). In the project, over 3,200 households were assigned to four groups, receiving different types of behaviour change interventions. A household survey is now being conducted to determine which set of measures was most effective in improving sanitary conditions.
Evidence-based development projects
Mosler says: “The project in Ghana is a good example of our evidence-based approach, relying on sound scientific methods.” Unfortunately, he adds, this cannot be taken for granted in development projects. Over the last ten years, he and his group have successfully applied insights from environmental and health psychology in development cooperation projects – for example, to promote handwashing in schools, to increase the consumption of fluoride-free water, or to improve waste management in refugee camps. Mosler comments: “I think it’s fair to say that we have a unique understanding of behavioural determinants. Promoting behaviour change is our forte!”
36 behaviour change techniques
Among the numerous factors which determine human behaviour are social pressures, feelings, self-efficacy and concerns about high costs. In Mosler’s model of behaviour change (Ranas, Fig. 2), the various factors are classified under the following headings:
- Risks (e.g. lack of awareness of the link between poor hygiene and disease)
- Attitudes (e.g. emotions which arise when thinking of a particular behaviour)
- Norms (How do others behave? What view do they take of a new behaviour?)
- Abilities (e.g. confidence in recovering from setbacks)
- Self-regulation (e.g. planning to overcome barriers)