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PracticeTools and Guidance

CARE’s Journey Piloting Social Norms Measures for Gender Programming

This “Theory to Practice” brief describes CARE’s journey to understand social norm theory from academia, and apply it in development practice. CARE’s interest stemmed from programming experience where, despite working on attitudes and providing information, certain gender inequitable behaviours persisted, CARE therefore sought out to test whether a deeper understanding of social norms could shed new light on what is holding certain behaviours in place, and lead to more effective strategies for transforming gender norms and behaviours that seem stuck. 

With support from social norms researchers, CARE adapted social norms theory into practical implementation design and measurement approaches and tools that could be more easily applied to international development programmes in resource constrained settings. It then piloted these approaches across three project sites:

  • ReNEW (Redefining Norms to Empower Women), focused on engaging men and boys to reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) on tea plantations in Sri Lanka, (2014-2016). 
  • TESFA (Towards Improved Economic and Sexual Reproductive Health Outcomes for Adolescent Girls), focused on the needs of ever-married adolescent girls in the Amhara region of Ethiopia (2015-2017).
  • Abdiboru (Improving Adolescent Reproductive Health and Nutrition through Structural Solutions), an operations research intervention focused on reducing early marriage and improving health and nutrition outcomes for young adolescent girls in the Oromia region of Ethiopia (2015-2020). 

This paper focuses on describing the measurement approach and tools CARE has been piloting to explore social norms including formative research, baseline and endline studies, and monitoring. 

CARE’s Social Norms Analysis Plot (SNAP) Framework

CARE developed the SNAP framework which identifies the key components of a norm and additional questions that were used to develop story vignettes to measure changes in norms over time, but also inform ways that interventions can be further tuned for greater impact. They key components of a norm and questions in the framework are:

  • Empirical Expectations – What I think others do. What behaviour is considered to be typical in the group? 
  • Normative Expectations – What I think others expect me to do. What behaviour is considered to be approved of in the group?
  • Sanctions – Anticipated opinion or reaction of others (whose opinions matter to me) to the behaviour. What negative social sanctions are anticipated if someone deviates from the norm? 
  • Sensitivity to sanctions – If there is a negative reaction from others (negative sanction), would the main character change their behaviour in the future? What influence does the anticipated negative social sanctions have on behaviour?
  • Exceptions – Under what circumstances would it be okay for the main character to break the norm (by acting positively)?  Are there people or circumstances when it is more acceptable to deviate from what is considered typical and appropriate in the group?
Date published
  • 2017
  • Leigh Stefanik
  • Theresa Hwang
Published by CARE