How can we influence toilet usage and construction in India?
Beyond economic/structural barriers, there is evidence demonstrating that social norms and cultural beliefs significantly influence toilet usage. Athena collaborated with the Mind, Behavior, and Development (eMBed) team at the World Bank, UC Berkeley and Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group to test a set of toilet usage innovations. These enabled the government to leverage community champions (swacchagrahis) and front line sanitation workers to create a ‘pro-toilet’ social norm. It proposed an intervention that derives insights from a pilot exercise in Uttar Pradesh, which revealed significant results over a short 5-day campaign period. This pilot exercise selected and deployed ‘norm entrepreneurs’ (village volunteers). These norm entrepreneurs carry forward messages that directly attack the problem of pluralistic ignorance on OD (open defecation). The outreach and impact among men who typically make exceptions and rationalizations for OD was also encouraging.
The proposition involved an intervention to design a set of psychological screening tests. It also involved a selection approach to identify people who are most suitable to influence and enforce social norms. The intervention also developed standard operative guidelines for swacchagrahis (for example: mobisodes) on what is expected of them. Post selection and deployment, it tested a set of innovative non-monetary, social incentive structures among select swacchagrahis. This encouraged sustained interaction with the community and motivate them to perform their roles more effectively. It also measured the impact of this intervention, evaluating the efficacy of this approach in achieving SBM* goals.
* Swachh Bharat Mission: A Government of India campaign that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns, and rural areas.