Recently I have been writing/developing what I am calling “The SSBCC for Peace Framework.” It aims to be comprehensive yet simple and user friendly method which shows the integration of social marketing and communications strategies with conflict resolution/ peacebuilding interventions which may be applied to universally to conflict contexts.
The SSBCC for Peace framework, much like what should ideally take place in the conflict resolution and peacebuilding field always begins and ends by listening to the target population and understanding the needs and wants that drives behaviors.
The framework calls the targeted audience “conflict consumers.” The term highlights the environmental factors that are a reality for conflict consumer in that as actors in a conflict they function within a conflict economy and make use of the goods and services generated within it.
A conflict consumer has the agency to change their own personal knowledge, attitudes or behavior and influence others to do so and thus impact the conflict dynamics. The status of “conflict consumer” is one, in which the actor currently finds him/herself, not the state they could or would like to be in. A conflict consumer is for the most part inextricably connected to the conflict and thus are central to the causes and dynamics of a conflict.
Since the conflict consumers are central to any strategic communications or behavioral change communications program, listening to them takes place at the beginning and throughout the process. And strategy begins and ends with the Conflict Consumers.
But…its not so easy…
Changing behaviors in conflict areas is a difficult task – mostly because many do not have the self efficacy to do so.
Last November Monica Cyberland, communications professional who blogs at eventures in Cyberland posted an entry called : Video Clip of The Month: Do Aid Workers Need PR 101 about Amy Lockwood’s TED talk (her current role is deputy director of Stanford’s Center for Innovation in Global Health)
The talk is called “Selling Condoms in Congo”
The crux of Amy Lockwoods talk was about the seemingly lack of knowledge the development field has of who the target audience is – specifically of Health Communications and Social marketing interventions in Congo aiming at increasing condom use.
Monica in Cyberland responded with some great insight. I will quote her since I cannot say it better, She said:
“After viewing her talk, I was a little stunned. Unlike every other TED video I’ve seen (I love, love, love, TED Talks), her talk was filled with misinformation, half truths, and flawed health communications concepts:
- Lockwood assumes people in the DCR are thinking about sex before they use condoms. That certainly is true in the United States. But years of brutal civil war have helped make the prevalence ofrape and other sexual violence in the DRC arguably the worst in the world. In conflict zones, rebels storm villages in the dead of night, setting homes on fire, shooting men, gang-raping women, and committing other atrocities that will literally give you nightmares. According to USAID, about 25.6 percent of women who have suffered sexual violence in the DRC’s conflict areas are HIV-positivecompared with 1.8 percent of women in the general population. Obviously, a significant proportion of at-risk people involved in sex acts in the DRC have terror and aggression, not sex and fun, on their minds. Marketing perpetuating the message that women are objects would likely only aggravate this nightmare.
- Just because the veiled promise of sex sells perfume, jeans, and underwear doesn’t necessarily mean the certainty of sex sells condoms. I’m doubtful of that leap. Lockwood’s four-minute talk doesn’t address any quantitative or qualitative measures she used to document the marketing superiority of generic brands with provocative packaging. She only mentions some anecdotal evidence she obtained through her personal conversations. To convince me, you would need to point to some surveys, focus groups, observational studies, etc. to support such claims. You’d also need to show the competing products were otherwise the same and price, quality, and placement/availability weren’t contributing factors.
- Fear is not typically a message major donors would use to promote condom use or most other types of desired behavior change. Fear messages often don’t work because information has little or no effect on behavior. Rather, your marketing and messages need to give people a sense of self efficacy or invoke social pressure/community norms among other things. For example, a sex worker (a critical audience segment) in the DRC who needs money to feed her family and pay her children’s school fees (school there is not free) must feel she has the power to insist her clients use condoms without risking losing them. Neither fear messages about the dangers of AIDS/HIV nor provocative packaging will give that to her. What does developing messages that address self efficacy or social pressure/community norms typically entail? Not simply knowing who your audience is. It means researching what members of each key audience segment perceive as the benefits and barriers to changing their behavior.
- I personally find it hard to believe many donor agencies put funding statements on condoms as a marketing strategy. USAID, for example, does sometimes get flack for putting its logo and “this assistance is from the American people” on aid items. Condoms, however, are one the exceptions to its contract marking policy (see section 3188.8.131.52). I find it odd the picture Lockwood used to demonstrate her point in her presentation says UNMIL. UNMIL, as far as I know, stands for the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Liberia is nowhere near the DRC.
- Off the communications topic but still noteworthy, Lockwood claims the DRC is the largest country in Africa. It’s not. Algeria recently became the largest country in Africa after South Sudan broke away from Sudan, which used to be the largest, in July. Perhaps she misspoke and meant sub-Saharan Africa? If not, the comment makes her appear to be a rookie.
- Also off the communications topic, Lockwood attributes the lack of life-saving drugs for HIV/AIDS victims in the DRC to “poor infrastructure.” The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world and some bush areas are inaccessible in the rainy season. Many people in the DRC do not even have access to aspirin, refrigerators to safely store life-saving medicines and vaccines, insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria, or basic sterile supplies to help prevent mothers from bleeding to death in childbirth. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS drugs are just one of a zillion unmet needs there. Brutal civil war, extreme poverty, and donor prioritization in the face of heart-breaking need, not “poor infrastructure,” are to blame.
- Perhaps most importantly, condoms are simply not available in most areas of the DRC. For this reason, it’s a little far fetched to suggest marketing or packaging are to blame for only 3 percent of the population using them.”