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| September 10, 2017

Sharing what works and challenging what does not: Takeaways from the South Asia community of practice launch

“Our three countries – Bangladesh, Nepal and India – have similar contexts; we face the same inequitable norms and battle backlash from social change. Let’s share what is working and change what is not.”
– Quote from a regional participant attending the convening meeting

On August 30 and 31 in Kathmandu, Nepal, over 30 individuals came together for the convening meeting and launch of the South Asia regional community of practice (CoP) on the scale-up of normative change for adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH). Three countries in the region – Nepal, Bangladesh and India –were represented by participants from government ministries, USAID Missions, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations at the international, local, and community levels.

This was the second and final launch of our regional CoPs. The first, the Francophone Africa CoP, launched in June 2017.


What Members Accomplished

The meeting provided an opportunity for participants to come together to collaborate with other interested stakeholders and learn from each other’s experiences and ideas in the area of norm change and scale up of normative interventions. The sessions were dedicated to agreeing on a shared vision for the CoP, setting priorities, exploring thematic focus areas, situating our collective work in the regional context, and highlighting promising approaches in the region.

The main objectives of the meeting were to 1) reflect upon and prioritize regional South Asian needs related to normative change and the scale up of normative interventions related to AYSRH and 2) to begin developing a shared work plan for the new CoP. The discussions throughout the meeting were rich, with participants highlighting their desire to:

  • go beyond sharing information; to reflect and develop knowledge
  • move forward together rather than repeating what doesn’t work
  • pay more attention to power and inequality
  • increase efforts to foster positive social norms

Participants shared the conviction that addressing power inequalities is critical to meeting global development goals. Discussion focused on the role social norms, particularly gender norms, play in women’s empowerment. One participant said, “If we don’t empower women, we will never achieve lasting change.” Another remarked that men who may not see the needs or benefits of any change in the normative context often set policy priorities.


What’s Next for the CoP?

During the meeting, members mapped out areas of interest and agreed to take turns leading discussions on the Springboard platform for ongoing collaboration. The discussion topics for the upcoming year include:

  • How to measure social norms and evaluate normative change programs (quantitative and qualitative approaches)
  • Program practices that focus on positive norms: What works? What does not?
  • How to ensure implementation of existing policies supporting positive norm change
  • Strategies for cross-sector integration and coordination
  • Normative change programs related to boys and men (across the life course)
  • Mass media approaches
  • Interpersonal behavior communication change strategies

The coming year brings many opportunities to grow together as members take their work plans forward and share knowledge, resources, and opportunities at both regional and national levels through sharing resources, information, and identifying opportunities for capacity building as well as piggybacking on national and global events of interest. As one member explained, “We become complacent. Are we asking the right questions? I want to find others to speak with who can give me a push and keep me connected to global and regional networks.” With the regional CoPs, we’re helping to close this gap!


About the Communities of Practice

With support from USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Office, Passages formed two regional Communities of Practice (CoPs)—one in Francophone Africa and one in South Asia—on the scale-up of normative change for adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health. The purpose of the CoPs is to focus regionally on advancing knowledge sharing, collaboration, practice, and advocacy around social norms transformation among individuals, researchers, organizations, projects, and donors aiming to improve adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health outcomes at scale. The CoPs will provide a platform for building knowledge and capacity, fostering supportive professional networks across sectors, and sharing emerging evidence and promising practices. The CoPs will also advocate for investment in the expansion of adolescent and youth normative interventions. Learn more about Passages’ Regional Communities of Practice

Passages, led by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University in partnership with FHI 360, JHU’s Global Early Adolescent Study, PSI, Save the Children and Tearfund, aims to address a broad range of social norms, at scale, to achieve sustained improvements in family planning and sexual and reproductive health. This research project is building the evidence base and contributing to the capacity of the global community to strengthen normative environments that support positive family planning and sexual and reproductive health, especially among very young adolescents, newly married couples, and first-time parents. Check out more here.



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