Case study
1 July 2018

Social norms change at scale: Insights from Tostan

Author: Diane Gillespie, Gannon Gillespie, Molly Melching
Published by: Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP)
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Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in the Wolof language, is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1991 and headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Tostan is currently offering its 30-month program in five West African countries. We are dedicated to empowering African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.

At Tostan, it is believed that development is most effective and sustainable when brought about by communities themselves. In this community-led approach to social change, Tostan acts as a facilitator—to share resources, skills, and knowledge that will empower communities to set their own goals and create change on their own terms. Through a holistic, human rights-based education program, the Community Empowerment Program, Tostan ignites community dialogue on a wide range of topics through modules focused on democracy, human rights, hygiene and health, and problem-solving. Tostan then reinforces these topics while providing training in literacy,
numeracy, and project-management skills. 


This case study is part of a series of five published by Raising Voices. The collection is designed for funders, practitioners, and activists. It seeks to identify key elements for success, highlight challenges, and provide recommendations for adapting and scaling the methodologies of The Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP) members and, more broadly, social norms change interventions. The case studies draw on over 120 years of combined experience and practice-based learning among five CUSP programs.