Elevating the Science and Art of Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC)
Written by Gael O'Sullivan   

For the first time ever, over 700 international development professionals gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from February 8-10, 2016 to kick off the inaugural International Social and Behavior Change Summit.  Participants came from 50 different countries to meet, network, and share evidence and lessons learned from maternal and child health, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, water and sanitation (WASH), and malaria programs.  USAID’s flagship health communication project, HC3, which is led by Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, organized the Summit with the support of a diverse array of sponsors and steering committee members. 

Abt Associates colleagues at the first-ever International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 2016. Many attendees noted that this gathering was long overdue.  The Summit was not only instructive from a technical perspective, but perhaps more importantly, both young professionals and veterans were inspired to be with 700 like-minded individuals passionate about using behavioral science and social marketing principles to improve health outcomes in poor countries.  The format included a wide range of sessions, from traditional plenary and panel discussions to TED-style talks, ‘blue sky’ sessions (brainstorming in specific topics), ‘the Lion’s Den’ (a ‘Shark Tank’ style student competition), and an Entertainment Education Showcase.   Many presenters came from developing countries, and the voices of those directly affected by poor health infrastructure and limited resources were featured prominently.  Whether learning  how to use interactive voice response and SMS text messages to accelerate behavior change in Ghana,  involve boys and men through ‘gender transformative approaches’ to improve sexual and reproductive health, or apply ethnographies to chart character changes in Ugandan serial radio dramas,  the Summit offered insight-driven and thought-provoking results that participants could apply in their own work.

One important outcome of the Summit is “The Addis Declaration (2016)”, which outlines ten principles or considerations summarizing the state of SBCC and where the community hopes to go in the future.  Hopefully these principles will strengthen and enrich the SBCC field, link academic and practitioner members more closely, increase the stature and reputation of SBCC globally, and continue to improve the effectiveness and impact of communication on a local, national and global scale.  Read the full Summit report at:   http://healthcommcapacity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SBCC-Report-2016-ksm2.pdf  and mark your calendars for the next SBCC Summit in March 2018 (stay tuned for details).