Humanitarian Principles & Essentials

What is SBCC and why is it important?

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What is SBCC and why is it important?

Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) or Communication for Development (C4D) is an interactive process of any intervention with individuals, groups, or communities (as integrated with an overall program) to develop communication strategies to promote positive behaviours which are appropriate to their settings and thereby address the most serious health issues in the world. In turn, this creates a conducive environment where individuals can start, continue, and maintain desired behaviour results.

SBCC, which is based on validated theories and models of behaviour change, is the strategic use of communication to promote favourable health outcomes. SBCC uses a methodical approach that starts with formative research and behaviour analysis and continues with communication planning, execution, monitoring, and evaluation. To accomplish predetermined behavioural objectives, audiences are carefully segmented, messages and materials are pre-tested, and mass media (including radio, television, billboards, print materials, and the internet), and interpersonal channels (like client-provider interaction, group presentations, and community mobilization) are used.

BCC and SBCC are phrases that can be used interchangeably to describe the coordination of messages and activities across a range of channels to affect society at many levels, including the individual, the community, services, and policy. SBCC is based on evidence and is theoretically founded. Programs are developed using data that is already available and employ a systematic approach, examining the issue to identify change-related obstacles and drivers, and developing a wide range of customized interventions that support the desired behaviours. The plan that directs the development of interventions, identifies target audiences, establishes behavioural communication goals, and chooses consistent messages, resources, and activities across channels is known as an SBCC strategy. BCC and behaviour modification, which has a different meaning in the context of clinical psychiatry, should not be used interchangeably. By putting “impact first” rather than “story first,” SBCC distinguishes itself from Social Impact Entertainment (SIE).

What distinguishes SBCC from conventional communication?

Social and Behaviour Change Communication, as part of a larger program for information transmission, motivation, problem-solving, and planning, is the process of interactively communicating with people, institutions, communities, and society. To promote and maintain positive behaviour among individuals, groups, and societies, SBCC uses a number of communication methods. In order to achieve its goals, SBCC follows a systematic approach that involves formative research, behaviour analysis, communication planning, execution, and monitoring, as well as assessment.

The strategic application of communication methodologies to encourage changes in knowledge, attitudes, norms, beliefs, and behaviours is known as SBCC, formerly known as behaviour change communication (BCC). Programs are developed under SBCC using current data and a structured methodology. A series of specialized treatments that support the desired behaviours are developed once the issue is examined to identify the barriers and motivators to change. An SBCC strategy is the document that directs the design of interventions, identifies intended audiences, establishes behavioural communication goals, and chooses consistent messages, materials, and activities across channels once the process is complete.

The three core elements of SBCC

  • Social Change

Realize changes in how issues are defined and perceived, how individuals participate, how policies are implemented, and in social attitudes and behaviour.

  • Behaviour Change

Interventions and efforts to modify desired behaviour in a simple and practical manner while safeguarding and increasing results.

  • Communication

Recognize the needs, motivations, and preferences of the target audience to create customized messages and strategies across communication platforms.

SBCC understands that people behave in relation to those around them (community, family, religion and county). Effective SBCC in nutrition interventions can generate change in the social, physical, market, and policy settings at the same time, enabling people to adopt and retain the behaviours being promoted (exclusive breastfeeding, production and consumption of balanced diets and positive gender norms). Implementing SBCC necessitates a multifaceted strategy to message transmission. Long-term exposure to signals of desired behaviour by the targeted group eventually leads to behaviour modification. Improved newborn and maternal health, decreased transmission of infectious diseases like malaria, and increased use of family planning methods are just a few of the health issues where SBCC has been successful. 

SBCC is a useful tool for addressing a variety of issues affecting communities and groups. BCC has been implemented as a successful approach for public outreach initiatives, health and environmental education, and community mobilization. The development of communications strategies to lower the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission has been made easier by increased information on the behaviour modification process. Communication is used in a wide range of health promotion techniques as an educational or norm-forming tool. Additionally, high-risk groups including women, young people, injectable drug users, homosexuals, and HIV-positive groups need to have their own unique tactics developed.

Why is SBCC important in Emergencies?

Affected communities must take special steps for prevention, containment, and control during disease outbreaks and emergencies. Effective SBCC programming can help communities become aware, inspired, and prepared to adopt the necessary protective behaviours. To address all of the social and behavioural aspects of disease prevention and control, social and behaviour change communication is essential. In particular, SBCC can:

  • Deliver accurate, clear, relevant, and timely information to the public on how to contain the emergency and protect themselves.
  • Identify and address myths and misconceptions that may lead to harmful practices.
  • Maintain public trust.
  • Prepare communities for emergency response actions.
  • Boost public confidence.
  • Assist communities and nations to recover and rebuild themselves after an emergency.

An emergency response is unlikely to be successful if it does not involve strategically used communication initiatives. This was illustrated by the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014 when poor communication at the beginning of the response fuelled anxiety, panic, and denial; circulated false information, and aided in the disease’s continued spread. As a result, SBCC has been recognized as a crucial component of any crisis or emergency preparedness strategy. It should be included in all phases of an emergency response, from prevention and readiness to crisis response and recovery.

The objective of SBCC is to inform the public about their risks at the outset of an emergency, assist them in making wise judgments about those risks, and motivate them to take appropriate action. The communication and associated pillars will make sure that the right communication interventions are used in conjunction with response actions. The emergency communication pillar may play a role in, among other things;

  • Coordination
  • Community mobilization
  • Message production and dissemination
  • Capacity building
  • Monitoring and evaluation (M&E)

Our Social and Behaviour Communication Change (SBCC) course has more information on key factors that influence human behaviour.


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