Changing gender and social norms, attitudes and behaviours


What rigorous evidence is there on what types of programming interventions work to bring about changes in gender and social norms, and changes in wider attitudes and behaviours?


This annotated bibliography presents studies of programmes that aim to bring about changes in gender and social norms, and changes in wider attitudes and behaviours. Much of the literature and some programme designs recognise the need to change social norms in order to change behaviours, such as HIV/AIDs prevention and better sanitation and hygiene.

The report looks at interventions targeting the individual and inter-relational levels (e.g. workshops); the community level (e.g. community dialogue, community mobilisation and youth initiatives); and the wider societal level (mass media and edutainment). It highlights the effects of such interventions, focusing on rigorous evaluations. Findings include the following:

  • Changing individual attitudes may be insufficient to change behaviours. Greater efforts are often needed to engage the larger community in multi-component initiatives designed to change social norms.
  • Community-level interventions often have components aimed at mobilising specific people (change agents) within a community to encourage others to change by fostering dialogue and diffusing messages to people beyond direct participants. There is some evidence that community-wide mobilisation approaches are effective and can have a wide reach.
  • Interventions that involve group education with boys and men (sometimes in combination with women and girls) and adopt a gender transformative approach and intense community mobilisation are considered promising.
  • The use of mass media and marketing approaches is an efficient way of reaching large numbers of people at relatively low cost. It is well-suited to: modelling and promoting new (non-violent) norms; promoting the benefits of new norms; changing attitudes towards harmful behaviours and norms at scale; and promoting stories of change. There is some evidence that multi-media communications can change attitudes and norms relating to violence and gender inequality among a large target population.


Suggested citation

Haider, H. (2017). Changing gender and social norms, attitudes and behaviours. K4D Helpdesk Research Report series. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.