Using Social Norms Theory to Strengthen CATS Impact and Sustainability

July 2016

Understanding social norms is vital to how we work and the approaches we take during the pretriggering, triggering, and post-triggering phases of the CATS process.

This is a book chapter taken from Sustainable Sanitation For All: Experiences, Challenges and Innovations

Significant strides have been made through programmes such as Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS), which focus on eliminating open defecation (OD) by working with communities to change their beliefs and expectations around sanitation. However, challenges of effectiveness and slippage remain, which can limit longer-term sustainability.

Social Norms Theory (SNT) is a framework which can be used to explain why CATS works, and help us improve both the effectiveness and sustainability of our sanitation interventions. Achieving open defecation free (ODF) status is about creating a new social norm, and in order to do this, not only do we require a change in beliefs and attitudes, but we also need to create new social expectations. In this chapter we explain SNT and discuss how the achievement of ODF is not an end point but just one step along the way to stabilising a new social norm.

Additional details

PublisherPractical Action Publishing
ThemesBehaviour change

Dooley, T., Maule, L. and Gnilo, M. (2016) ‘Using Social Norms Theory to Strengthen CATS Impact and Sustainability’, in Bongartz, P., Vernon, N. and Fox, J. (eds), Sustainable Sanitation for All: Experiences, Challenges, and Innovations, Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing, doi:


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