Step 2 of our three step process for hygiene programme design requires learning from communities about all of the factors that influence the behaviour you are interested in. This step is often called ‘formative research’ because it informs the project you will design. As this article explains there are many determinants for hygiene behaviors. Formative research should be guided by theory and build upon existing evidence about the target behaviours. When designing formative research methods consider determinants other than just knowledge, fear and misconceptions. When assessing behavioural determinants it’s best to use a range of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Learning from populations can be challenging at the moment given that in-person interactions are being minimised in most contexts. In this document we describe a range of ways that you can continue to engage with and learn from communities at this time. Our resources on monitoring and evaluation also provide some guidance on how to do data collection remotely and highlight some of the strengths and limitations of different approaches.

During outbreaks it is easy to assume that the need to act quickly is more important than taking the time to learn from communities. However, when project implementers have reflected on previous outbreaks, the lack of learning from communities early on is often cited as a missed opportunity. Even a short period of learning is better than not allowing time to learn from populations at all. Your research can be complemented by other research conducted locally or globally about the target behaviours.

Approaches have also been developed to do this community consultation process rapidly. For example the Wash'Em process provides a set of rapid assessment tools designed for crises and outbreaks that take a matter of days to complete. This is complemented by programme designer software that generates suggestions for context-adapted activities. Having said this it is also possible to start doing simple ‘quick-win’ and low-risk activities from early on in the outbreak response. In this resource we provide some examples of handwashing related activities that are easy to do and appropriate for all contexts. While these initial actions are taking place your organisation will have time to learn from populations so that you can design a more comprehensive and adapted package of actions.

Want to know more about the process for designing effective behaviour change projects for COVID-19 prevention?

Editor's note

Author: Sian White

Reviewers: Peter Winch, Nadja Contzen, Dr Om Prasad Gautam,
Last update: 10.06.2020

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