What works to spark change?

When it comes to sparking social change, what really works? This is the question we asked when reviewing social marketing cases from around the globe targeted at reducing the rates of infection for HIV/AIDS and STDs. The context for any initiative is dynamic, but change agents interested in learning common themes for “what works” in social marketing cases may be interested to see the the checklist of key ingredients discussed at the World Social Marketing Conference.  

Following a global review of social marketing cases around the world, we found the best programs include these components: 
•SMART Goals – Iterative
•Citizen Orientation – Strong
•Social Offering - Clear
•Segmentation & Insight – Researched
•Relationship-building – Long-term
•Integrated Intervention Mix – Tailored
•Systematic Planning – Theory to Evaluation

Each area is explained in detail below. 

Develop SMART Goals as an iterative process. Start by identifying broad goals, then narrow them and add key measures during formative research to make the goals SMARTer: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Ensure a strong citizen or customer orientation, performing extensive research on customer attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and incidence rates of infections at the outset, and embedding community members as ongoing planners.

Make a clear social offering, such as to “provide protection” to targeted populations from sexually transmitted infections in the interest of improved public health. 

Design the program to be well-researched and aided by segmentation – clustered by demographics, psychographics, and other variables. 

Take the long view in relationship-building, engagement and exchange. Listen carefully to stakeholders and act on citizen recommendations. Ultimately, you want community members co-creating the programs. 

Customize the intervention mix. Programs must be informed by best practices but tailored to objectives, target groups, and the current context. 

Develop systematic planning was ongoing, from theory to evaluation. A strong theoretical understanding (whether it be exchange theory, stages of planning, or the “4Ps”) can underpin and inform initiatives at critical junctures. Further, programs may benefit by using a logic model to plan and visualize outcomes.

Those are the critical elements we're seeing in evidence-backed social change programs. Did we capture them all? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  


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