Knowledge SUCCESS conducted behavioral science research and co-creation workshops in 2020. We learned from family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) professionals that there are several behavioral biases that affect how they find, share, and use knowledge to inform their FP/RH programs. For example, FP/RH professionals shared that they have difficulty selecting relevant information from the vast amount of knowledge available (choice overload), as well as synthesizing and applying overly complex, non-contextualized information (cognitive overload). We unpacked these biases in our previous blog post here.
The EAST framework, developed by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), is a notable and well-used behavioral science framework that FP/RH programs can use to overcome these common biases in knowledge management for FP/RH professionals. EAST stands for “easy, attractive, social, and timely”—four principles that Knowledge SUCCESS as it designs and implements knowledge management activities to get the latest evidence and best practices into FP/RH programs around the world.
EAST stands for “easy, attractive, social, and timely”
According to BIT, there are three ways to “make it easy”:
You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t always make it drink. This leads us to the “make it attractive” principle: addressing inactivity after the information has been simplified, hassle factors have been removed, and defaults have been set. This principle is based on the idea that we are more likely to do something if we find it attractive or if we stand to gain a reward. Attraction can be created by several factors, such as emotional advertisements on TV or pictures throughout a book, in lieu of just text. Knowledge SUCCESS has infused this principle in a number of our publications, including What FP Programs Can Do Right Now in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Attraction can be created by several factors, such as emotional advertisements on TV or pictures throughout a book, in lieu of just text.
Rewards tend to have a strong effect on driving compliance with desired behaviors. For example, when Knowledge SUCCESS wanted to stimulate innovation for new knowledge management solutions, we launched The Pitch, a series of regional competitions among FP/RH stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to design and implement knowledge management innovations, with the chance for four participants to be selected for a sub-award for up to $50,000 each. Alongside monetary incentives, gamification can drive attraction, which has proven to be effective across many fields. Gamification leverages competitive spirit by creating games or activities that encourage and reward the desired behavior. On FP insight, for example, users who complete a scavenger hunt to learn how to use key features of the platform earn a visual badge on their profile, letting other users know they’re an “Explorer.”
Leveraging social norms can encourage (or discourage) certain behaviors. How our social network perceives and engages in an activity has a great influence on our individual behavior, as most people want to conform and act in accordance with their peers at least to some extent. “Make it social” is all about leveraging two types of social norms:
Social norms can influence behavior in a variety of situations. One classic example is a series of trials run by the energy company OPower in the U.S. It used customers’ electricity bills to compare energy consumption among regular users and their more energy-efficient neighbors. In an effort to conform to social norms, inefficient energy users reduced household energy use by 2%–4% as a result of this comparison.
Among FP/RH professionals, prescriptive and descriptive social norms can highlight good knowledge management practices to encourage such behaviors. To increase attendance at a training or webinar, FP/RH practitioners could inform potential participants that they should attend, as the knowledge can be used to improve program implementation and sustainability. Similarly, knowledge management websites could inform their users that most FP/RH professionals experience some sort of failure or setback with program design and implementation, which may encourage these professionals to share more information on what does not work, helping others avoid repeating the same mistakes.
People are most responsive to changing their behaviors when prompted at the right time. Understanding when people are the most receptive, and then encouraging behavioral change at those exact moments, can help minimize procrastination, distractions, and forgetfulness. For example, BIT’s work around timed interventions revealed that asking people to leave a legacy gift in their wills at the moment they are writing their wills is a highly effective way of increasing charitable donations.
Understanding when people are the most receptive…can help minimize procrastination, distractions, and forgetfulness.
Likewise, promoting the use of new knowledge management management tools, systems, and practices can be targeted for specific time periods when professionals are more likely to be open to change. These time periods could be at the beginning of a new year, after a promotion cycle, or during onboarding for new recruits. Reports, blogs, or video tutorials on various FP/RH topics could be advertised online or pushed to people’s email inboxes during working hours when they are most likely already in front of their computers. This could be effective at the beginning of the day before they have begun their work. Messages at key moments (such as emails 24 hours before a webinar to help boost attendance) can also be a powerful tool for encouraging certain behaviors.
Some of the best applications of behavioral science are often the simplest. The application of the four principles of the EAST framework shows how much impact can be made with seemingly simple tweaks to the timing and framing of messaging.