Briefing paper
6 September 2017

On the CUSP of Change: Effective scaling of social norms programming for gender equality

Author: Community for Understanding Scale up - working group
Published by: Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP)
Read paper
CUSP paper front page

Over the past 10 years, the evidence base on the effectiveness of programs focused on changing social norms to achieve gender equality has grown. A number of approaches and methodologies demonstrate significant impact in preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG) and in advancing women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Activists, organizations, governments, researchers, and donors now want to know how best to scale up these initiatives to reach more communities and increase sustainable impact. This is a critical moment, rich with opportunity. It also comes with risks and challenges.

In this brief, we provide practical insights and advice for programmers, funders, researchers, and policymakers as they take social norms programming to scale. Drawing on our broad and diverse experiences globally as practitioners and activists, we also highlight key challenges embedded in social norms change work and ways to overcome them. Most importantly, we suggest that effectively transforming harmful social norms at scale requires moving beyond the current thinking of scale as a numbers exercise to better reflect key principles from social norms change work. At this critical moment, we encourage the international development community to: 1) ensure that gendered, social justice principles and values are prioritized when programming at scale; and, 2) support innovation of new social norms change approaches that also reflect these principles. We believe that embracing this approach while prioritizing the agency, well-being and safety of communities is essential to achieving impact and ensuring sustainability.