Using SBCC and Communication Theories in Emergencies

These SBCC and communication theories provide researchers and practitioners with frameworks for understanding human behavior, potential for change and how changes in behavior may happen over time. These theories also define structures and systems for understanding influences on behavior and communication, including reasoning, motivations, barriers and efficacy, etc. Importantly, they identify (1) the multilevel social influences on human behaviors and practices, and (2) the fact that changes in behavior often take place through a series of processes and over time (Glanz & Bishop, 2010).

In emergency situations, time is often a limitation. Drawing on established theories about human behavior – particularly human behavior, communication and information seeking in emergency situations – can provide a preliminary step forward in the design and development of SBCC strategies. Importantly, theory can be used both in the planning and evaluation stages of a program. For example, major components of each of the theories defined int he previous section can be used to inform:

  • Issues to address in communication materials
  • Which communication channels to target
  • Particular at-risk populations
  • Indicators to include in M&E plans

Prior to choosing a theory to apply, it is important to start with a problem and then work iteratively to identify relevant theories and research to inform the SBCC strategy. To apply and adapt theories effectively, it is best to understand (1) how the theories were defined and (2) how they have been used in other situations. Often, this requires some investigation into other programs that have used the theory to inform their SBCC strategy.

While SBCC and communication theory can be applied to multiple populations and communities in different situations, it is also important for researchers and program developers to have an established, complex understanding of:

  • Population characteristics
  • Community/societal context and history
  • Community/societal dynamics (Glanz & Rimer, 2005)