Robert Chambers – So Much to Keep Up With, So Much to Learn

This was the first time I have been to the annual four and a half day conference of the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina.  Like the annual WEDC conference, there was a huge, almost overwhelming, harvest of information and learning. Here are some bullets of things that struck me:

Inequality is big, big now, with the post-2015 agenda.  It will be picked up and reported in the JMP.  We are entering a new space.  Good. Robert_chambers

Ash. Soap or ash for handwashing.  A JMP committee was unwilling to mention ash because there has been no study of the health effects, only those of soap, although there is no question that microbiologically it is nearly as good as soap.  Let us hope that research will be funded – there are people willing to carry it out.  But the big money for HW research comes, I suppose, from Unilever and Proctor and Gamble.  There is scope here for funding from others.  Ash is poor-friendly – widely available, costless, can be left outside without being stolen or taken by teachers, and is not eaten by goats.  But the deeply rooted refrain is ‘handwashing with soap’.  Again and again one has to argue for including ash – ‘handwashing with soap or ash’ or for that matter, soil, depending on the soil.

Behaviour change.  This came up repeatedly. Far too much to absorb or report but some snippets:

  • Signing a pledge can be effective
  • When someone has invested (e.g in building their own toilet) they may feel they have to keep up appearances and justify it by using it
  • Frequent rewards can reinforce behaviour
  • Special times can be picked as opportunities for change – e.g. a marriage or funeral
  • New behaviours can piggy-back on one another through linking
  • ‘Choice is the enemy of behaviour change’.
  • People infer motives from observing their own behaviour (linked with dissonance reduction)

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