The “Boulder Theory” of Change

What can you do if your road is blocked by a big boulder? You can’t get over it, under it, or around it. You push and push, but it just doesn’t budge. You could always get some dynamite and blow it up, of course, but what would that do to the road?

But what if you just take out your hammer and chisel and break up the boulder into smaller stones?  Then you could just haul the pieces away, piece by piece, until the road is clear.

Behavior change problems are the boulders in the road to health and development. We can’t avoid them, and no single communication intervention can get rid of them. But if we start with a clear thinking and a good communication analysis, we can break them into smaller rocks. Mistaken facts, missing information, outdated attitudes, assumptions, prejudices, unthinking habits, inappropriate norms — all these can be addressed and changed, one at a time.

Good audience analysis, clear communication objectives, fresh concepts, the right channels, creative messages, well-tested, well evaluated. All of these tools can be learned and improved in practice.  These lead to targeted campaigns that with clarity, persistence and patience can change behavior.