As I round out my tenure as CCP’s director and close out the year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on change – one of the truly few constants in life – from CCP’s social and behavior change work over three decades, to changes in the ever-growing SBC field, and of course, to the changes in my life as I retire from JHU. And, as many of us can attest, change isn’t always easy.
At this point though, I’m excited at the change that lies ahead and proud as I look back at the changes over the years.
When I started at CCP, what we now call SBC was referred to as Information, Education and Communication (IEC). As the field evolved, we segued into more specific language around Behavior Change Communication, which was then broadened to include Social and Behavior Change Communication. More recently, we’ve deemphasized communication, understanding that change can be catalyzed through other mechanisms, although I would posit that communication remains a critical element of change! These changes to the terminology we use haven’t always helped to make our work less opaque to those outside the field, but they do represent critical shifts in the evolution of SBC. Our approach to program design, the theories that drive them, and the way we assess our impact have become increasingly sophisticated over time.
And as the field changed, so has the context. In the earliest days of our programming, we would work with radio and TV stations that had a monopoly. We would sometimes exchange physical videotapes for airtime. Print materials for low-literate audiences featured heavily, along with basic health education. Back then, we never could have imagined today’s media landscape – with the abundance of streaming services, digital and social media platforms and the ability to create instant content with immediate feedback loops.
A big part of CCP’s agenda has always been advocacy for SBC: for resources to do more of it, for capacity building to bring more people into the fold, for effective program design through a systematic process that is evidence-based, theory driven and participatory. We were one of just a few organizations focused on this work internationally early on. Over time, we’ve seen the SBC field gain traction and respect among donors and our development partners. The community and capacity grow every day, with a multiplicity of organizations, private sector agencies and government lending their rich and diverse expertise to advance this critical work on the ground and the field itself. And where once it was hard to find this technical expertise in countries of implementation, there are now local organizations and a network of individuals who specialize in SBC almost everywhere. And of course, the COVID pandemic has further highlighted the importance of SBC in the public health arena.
The gains in the field have been matched with gains in the technical areas in which we’ve worked over the years: HIV infections have declined globally, and malaria mortality and morbidity have dropped dramatically as bed nets and early treatment have been widely adopted. We’ve also witnessed steady gains in family planning uptake in many parts of the world where the idea of modern contraception has long been taboo.
One thing that hasn’t changed is putting those we seek to serve at the center of our efforts. How we do things may be different – as we have become more informed by new research and redoubled our efforts to bring the people who will benefit from our programs into the process of developing them.
And yes, there have been a few changes in my personal life too. Marriage in my first year at CCP (going strong 36 years on), a move to Nigeria and back, two babies who are both now lovely and thoughtful adult women, and a wonderful professional family within and outside of CCP that has supported my professional and personal growth over the years.
My gratitude to all of you.