• Youtube Icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Instagram icon
  • LinkedIn icon
  • Facebook icon

Behavioural sciences

Areas of Expertise

Behavioural analysis

What is it?

Though many development programmes have clear objectives to achieve – particularly in how clients, patients, participants or employees should ideally behave – these programmes rarely take into consideration the decisions that stakeholders make in context, and the mental shortcuts that may be driving them. Through behavioural analysis we dissect a given context and a stakeholder’s decision-making journey to anticipate human behaviours and address behavioural barriers to a desired outcome.

Why would you benefit?

When individuals or organisations experience or anticipate behavioural barriers to buy-in, uptake, or follow through, behavioural analysis provides understanding in what may contribute to them. Perhaps the problem lies with the materials or products themselves, access, feedback, user satisfaction, or retention. Working with you – the client – we consider the business or programme objective, translate it into a behavioural objective, and then analyse which structural, sociological, or mental hindrances stand in the way of achieving this objective. This process also allows you to gain insight into your organisation or programme.

How is it done?

After field research, interviews with different stakeholders, and the assessment of materials, guidelines or systems, we are able to create a decision-journey map. Decision mapping visually depicts how people make decisions throughout a life cycle of interactions. Here we indicate both the barriers and friction points that would derail a user from keeping in the desired direction, as well as possible adjustments or interventions. This is usually the main deliverable for this type of work assignment and informs much of the design component (see Behaviour change intervention design).

An example?

The National Department of Health (NDoH) launched a WhatsApp platform called COVIDConnect on which people testing for COVID-19 could receive their results, and if they had tested positive, upload their contacts for contact tracing. For a number of reasons, uptake onto this platform was low to begin with. Genesis undertook to support the NDoH to increase uptake. To do this, a deep understanding of how users enrolled to COVIDConnect, as well as the potential friction points in doing so was required. Through key informant interviews with testing sites, the platform developers, and NDoH staff, Genesis delivered a detailed decision journey for potential users of COVIDConnect that can be used to behaviourally inform the messaging on COVIDConnect as well as guide the design of behaviourally informed collateral for testing sites to increase uptake. This work is still underway. 


Behaviour change intervention design

What is it?

Behaviour change intervention design is a creative yet evidence-based process of either adapting existing processes or materials, or designing new ones to achieve a certain behavioural outcome. This may include tweaking or creating templates or forms to improve response and feedback, simplifying guidelines or instructions to increase uptake and adherence, or building communication materials to change social norms and behaviours among a specific target audience.

Why would you benefit?

You may have a certain programme outcome in mind, or are experiencing challenges in realising an objective during implementation. These would typically include programmes that have large communication components, or response and feedback systems. If people’s decision-making or behaviour – which is almost always the case – is key to such a programme being successful, there is most likely an opportunity for behavioural sciences to ensure that any hindrances or friction points are eliminated as much as possible.

How is it done?

We start by developing a rigorous Theory of Change (TOC) in collaboration with our client. This allows us to map clearly the objectives of the project and how these will be achieved. Together with insights gained during a process of behavioural analysis, these inform the type of design and desired results. We apply insights from an array of subject areas in the field of behavioural sciences such behavioural economics, psychology, and SBCC. We also keep in mind that interventions should ideally be tested to assess their effectiveness and long-term sustainability.

An example?

We conducted extensive participatory research in the Gert Sibande District in Mpumalanga that showed many young women were engaged in sex work. The team designed a behaviourally informed peer-education programme to reach sex workers in the district. We produced a magazine for sex workers that was aimed at sex workers as women more holistically and not just their HIV risk. The magazine proved so popular that it was distributed by the South African National AIDS Council throughout the country. We showed that using innovation, combined with a respectful and engaged approach to the target audience, could result in a ground-breaking programme in this very difficult area


Capacity building

What is it?

One way to ensure the long term and sustainable implementation of interventions is to empower you and/or your stakeholders to apply principles of behavioural sciences throughout your programmes. We assist you, the client, to take ownership of their programmes to later witness the full impact of the interventions.

Why would you benefit?

In many cases, communication materials or systems need to be facilitated or relayed by one party to another. This means that both the material as well as the middleman’s approach needs to be behaviourally-informed. The full value of behavioural sciences is in recognising the underlying principles and how they can best be applied in a particular environment. You, our client, are the expert in your environment and as such should feel equipped to continue to apply behavioural insights without our expertise.

How is it done?

Depending on the nature of the project, capability building and training may happen either before the behaviourally-informed materials are implemented for testing, and/or it could take place after, as part of the final handover of the project. Capability building in behavioural sciences may also be the sole purpose of the project. With our team’s experience in coaching and lecturing, we also apply useful behavioural insights and techniques to our workshops for better engagement and retention.

An example?

Genesis’ behavioural sciences team is committed to training others in the power and use of behavioural techniques. For example, members of our team are guest lecturers at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand.


Monitoring and optimisation

What is it?

Monitoring and optimisation is a process of testing or assessing the reception, impact, and/or potential for scale-up of behavioural interventions in real-time, and using these findings to improve the approach. Our work is differentiated by the importance we place on context-specific, evidence-based recommendations to our clients. As behavioural scientists, we value each project as an opportunity to contribute to rigorous research in the field.

Why would you benefit?

Once we hand over our designs and recommendations for implementation or scale-up, you, our client, can know that it has been tested in your specific context or with your specific stakeholders. This makes the recommendations credible.

How is it done?

When possible, we run an A/B testing pilot – a user experience methodology – to compare either different prototypes of interventions, compare an existing prototype to the new, behaviourally-informed materials, or to compare historical data to new data. Our expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods allows us to effectively plan, roll-out and measure results. When A/B testing is not the most appropriate method of evaluation, our expertise in M&E are able to design tailored tests to suit the needs of your programme.

An example?

Genesis supported the Fun Learning for Youth (FLY) initiative that aims to improve the mathematics and life skills of high school learners from impoverished backgrounds by providing extracurricular lessons and mentorship. We tested two interventions to address problems with inconsistent attendance and poor performance by students: (a) a values affirmation exercise, (b) weekly behaviourally-informed SMSs to parents. We tested our interventions through an A/B test that was run over a five-week period. To measure, the test group completed the values affirmation exercise and their parents received three behaviourally informed SMSs each week. The intervention was a considerable success. The test group showed a 14% increase in attendance. Off the back of this, FLY has been advised to roll out the interventions across their programme. Low-cost interventions like these can yield valuable results with marked impact.



Sign up to Genesis News

for the latest news and information