C4D, Communication for Development, Development Communication, Social and Behaviour Change Communication, Social Marketing, Uncategorized

The Social and Behaviour Change Communication mandate and the Caribbean Voice

By: Shanoy Coombs

The recently concluded International Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) summit in Bali, Indonesia brought together well over 1200 delegates from 429 organizations and 92 countries across the globe to interact and engage around all things SBCC.  Under the theme: Shifting Norms, Changing Behavior, Amplifying Voice What works? with a focus on Entertainment-Education, the event was hosted by the John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, The Communication Initiative, BBC Media Action, Soul City Institute and UNICEF.

Shanoy Coombs SBCC Conference 2018
Shanoy Coombs, second right joins global change makers at the 2018 Social and Behaviour Change Communication Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The weeklong dialogue, presentations and workshops were engaging, interactive and zoomed in on What works, Making sense of the now and Agenda and Voice setting. Indeed being in the space was monumental as it provided a prime opportunity for awareness and conversations around the field that is at the root of some of the most effective behaviour change interventions.  It therefore stood out sharply that the Caribbean’s voice was notably limited in such an important global event.

Admittedly, I interacted with one other US based Jamaican and a colleague from Antigua who advised me that a St. Lucia grouping was also present. The graphic below puts this into perspective.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-02 at 5.40.33 AM

It wasn’t just the presence (or lack thereof) that I was concerned about but the fact that Caribbean wide there are several solid examples of SBCC interventions that could have offered a view from this side of the pond.  In my own capacity, much of the work done within the Food and Agriculture Organization focused on behaviour change for farmers and their families, their livelihoods, health impact of local produce and even gender balance within agriculture.  I recall for example projects such as the Agriculture Disaster Risk Management component which utilized several SBCC theories and practices including community based assessments, inclusive strategy development and integrated executions.

In Grenada as well, I worked on the initial stages of a SBCC campaign which encouraged Grenadians to Buy Local (again with a positive health component) and further afield in Barbados there have been interventions in the fisheries sector and in The Bahamas some of the SBCC interventions were linked to the Forestry sector.  These are just a few examples. In fact, region wide Ministries of Health, Education and organizations linked to children have at some point or the other implemented some SBCC initiatives, though they may have been rolled out under several different titles including “communication for development/C4D”, “Change Communication” “Behaviour Change communication” among others.

Further my love for the field was fuelled via a University introduction circa 2006 to Social Marketing-the application of Marketing principles to Social issues.  Under this programme, I vividly recall interviewing a Jamaican based Behaviour Communication Specialist in the Ministry of Health about the then work on a contraceptive linked SBCC campaign. Solid proof that Social and Behaviour Change Communications have long existed and been implemented in the Caribbean.

Notably the faculty at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (formerly Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication-CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, Mona have continued to champion the cause around all things Social and Behaviour Change Communication related. I do a little heart swell each time I see pieces like these that have been created by my former lecturer, Dr. Livingston White. You can read the full article here: Social Marketing in the Caribbean: Philosophy, Programs, Projects and Pedagogy.

Social marketing in the caribbean www.shanoycoombs.com

The preceding overview was deliberately highlighted to indicate that as the world focuses on the many opportunities and benefits around the SBCC field, the Caribbean too is in the know and has a voice- even if it wasn’t particularly pronounced at the recent summit. True to form, Caribbean wide, there are solid examples of how SBCC is being utilized towards the achievement of the SDGs.  Likewise, the varied SBCC initiatives broadly contribute to the continued positive role of Communication for global development.

My primary hope then is that for other forums of this nature, there will be an increased presence from Caribbean stakeholders who can fittingly highlight some of the successes reaped, lessons learnt, unique challenges and effective solutions.

As an outtake, an excerpt from the 2018 summit declaration rightly announces:

Grateful for the growing recognition that SBCC has won in recent years, we call on
governments, donors, civil society organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders to take this support to another level by:
• Integrating SBCC as a pillar in development planning and evidence generation;
• Developing and implementing SBCC strategies as part of national development plans and all efforts to achieve the SDGs;
• Recognizing that social change and shifting social norms requires long term
commitment, attention to social determinants, dignity and respect for diversity; and
• Investing in SBCC across as well as within sectors, funding its core processes to enable full participation of affected people in development.

I trust that Caribbean governments, donors and civil society organizations will be a part of this integrated process. My hope too is that the Caribbean region will not only implement but take advantage of opportunities to share what they have learnt in the global space. Indeed, the Caribbean faces some unique challenges, offers some unique perspectives and can also offer some unique solutions.

Are you a Caribbean based Social and Behaviour Change Communication Professional? What are some of your most effective interventions? Do share below.


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============================================================================Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page



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