Learning Collaborative to Advance Normative Change

Advancing Research and Practice on Normative Change for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Well-being

Social norms—the often unspoken rules that govern behavior—shape the trajectories of young people. The impact of harmful social norms, such as expectations related to gender-based violence, early marriage, and early parenthood, is receiving increasing attention. As programs are working to foster norms that support healthy behaviors, there is an opportunity to advance understanding of social norms: what they are, how to measure them, how they influence behavior, and how to scale up normative interventions that show promise. To date, the emerging community of social norm change practitioners is fragmented, lacking theoretical clarity and validated measures, and has poorly documented the scale-up process of social norm interventions that have been taken to scale.

The Learning Collaborative envisions a world where the powerful influence of social norms in shaping adolescents’ lives is widely understood, and where projects and programs improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health by applying normative science at scale.

Made up of a network of experts committed to facilitating collaboration between organizations and individuals working on adolescent sexual and reproductive health norm change initiatives, the Learning Collaborative is working to enhance collective efforts, build knowledge, and develop shared tools to promote and guide effective social norm theory, measurement and practice at scale.

To do this, the Learning Collaborative is organized according to three focused Learning Communities:

Members of the Community are working together to strengthen the measurement of social and gender norms, and to develop and share practical guidance to advance measurement science. Key tasks include a developing a peer-reviewed and tested social norms diagnostic tool to support the rapid assessment of the most relevant social norms affecting target behaviors in a specific setting, and to inform program and measurement approaches. In addition, the Community will create an online compendium of social norms measures, which will include qualitative and quantitative methodologies, tools, scales, questions and approaches used to measure social norms. At a later stage, this Community may seek to develop specific measures and/or explore associations with social and gender norms based on existing datasets.

Members of the Community are working together to develop and share practical theoretical tools to advance clarity and congruence in the design, monitoring and evaluation of normative interventions. These tools will also facilitate learning by providing a common language and set of concepts to use when comparing and contrasting program experiences and results. Key tasks for this year are to build on work by members and others to propose a conceptual framework of the influence of social norms on adolescent sexual and reproductive health behavior. Then, based on that understanding, the Community will develop theories of change for normative interventions. The theories of change will emerge from grounded theory workshops with normative practitioners from the global South. Representatives of the other learning communities will participate in this work, to ensure that conceptual insights inform measurement and scale-up.

Members of the Community are working together to strengthen the design, evaluation and costing of adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health normative change interventions going to scale. At present, the group proposes developing a toolkit to support scale-up of normative change interventions, informed by the work and experiences of the Learning Collaborative partners. This toolkit may include case studies on learning from normative interventions that have gone to scale, details on scale-up frameworks, and principles for scale-up. The Community is revising and testing a primer for activity-based costing of normative interventions, intending to develop a peer-reviewed and tested tool that can contribute to the standardization of approaches to costing normative change at the community level.


(Anyone can join)




Steering Committee Members

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF)
UK Department of International Development (DFID)
FHI 360 (co-convenor)
Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University (convenor)
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Overseas Development Institute/GAGE
Pathfinder International
UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)