Theory-Driven Formative Research to Inform the Design of a National Sanitation Campaign in Tanzania

August 2019

There are gaps in global understanding about how to design and implement interventions to improve sanitation. This formative study provided insights for the subsequent redesign of a government-led national sanitation campaign targeting rural populations in Tanzania.

A Behaviour Centred Design approach was used to investigate the key factors motivating toilet building, improvement and use. Varied, novel, and interactive research tools were employed in fifty-five households in two regions of rural Tanzania. Results were analysed to articulate a Theory of Change, which then informed intervention design.

The study revealed that participants valued hard work, enterprise, and improving their lives over many years. They wanted better toilets but felt no urgency to act quickly. A common emotional motivator for improving toilets was to protect children from disease (Nurture) but this was insufficient to drive rapid change. Disgust with traditional toilets meant they were built at a distance from the house: an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. Other powerful motives included the desire to improve living conditions (Create), and to become a modern Tanzanian (Status), albeit without ‘showing off’. Construction costs and water scarcity were the main stated barriers. Receiving information about realistic costs, support accessing materials, and visiting better latrines elsewhere were commonly reported reasons for improving latrines.

The resulting Theory of Change recommended that the intervention should surprise people with a novel conversation about toilets, promote toilets as a means of conferring status, and introduce a perceived urgency to ‘act now’. It should suggest that modest improvements would lead to a better life. Feelings of disgust and fear with poor quality toilets should be amplified, and barriers lessened through promoting transformational toilet improvements, and improving access to modern toilet products. This research provided considerable insight into sanitation behaviours in rural Tanzania, which informed creative intervention design.

Additional details

PublisherPLoS One
RegionEastern Africa
ThemesBehaviour change, Campaigns, Design, nudges and cues, Social norms

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