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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Health Communication

For a Special Issue on
Communication for Social and Behavior Change: Lessons, Challenges, and Prospects in Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times

Manuscript deadline
01 November 2022

Cover image - Journal of Health Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Rafael Obregon, UNICEF
[email protected]

Douglas Storey, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs
[email protected]

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Communication for Social and Behavior Change: Lessons, Challenges, and Prospects in Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times

In support of the December 2022 Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit, JOHC is inviting submission of papers that address conference themes:

  1. Catalyzing Transformational Change on Agendas of Urgency: What do we know about SBCC effectiveness to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges (e.g., climate crisis, health, gender and wealth disparities, humanitarian action, and others) to achieve change at scale?
  2. Future Forward: What does research and programmatic experience suggest about the future of SBCC to address issues of democracy, social justice, ethics, and response to pandemics and infodemics?
  3. Connecting the Dots: How can we use SBCC to build bridges between sectors, disciplines, stakeholders, and areas of praxis and research, to collaborate, strengthen networks, share resources and skills, and increase the impact of our field?

Papers can have a practice or research focus, but all should draw on theory and evidence to make their point.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the multiple uncertainties it has brought with it, has affected almost every aspect of life and society: while submissions may reflect on the impact the pandemic has had, we do not expect or encourage all papers to be COVID-related.  But the pandemic has shed new light on many global challenges: pandemic preparedness and response, the climate crisis, humanitarian disasters, gender inequity, racial/social injustice, and others.  That’s why social and behavior change communication has never been more important.

Behavior changes like physical distancing, mask-wearing and vaccine uptake have brought increased public and policy attention to the role of SBCC and to what helps introduce and sustain new attitudes and practices, support institutions, and catalyze structural change.

The papers in this Special Issue will reflect what the field has learned, and what inspires us to use SBCC to address pressing challenges—most importantly disparities in wealth, health, access, gender, and power.

Theme 1: Catalyzing Transformational Change on Agendas of Urgency

Never has adaptability and innovation been more needed. Papers under this theme will examine how we can accelerate transformational change in the critical, interconnected areas of climate crisis and global warming, gender equity, global disparities and inequality, and humanitarian action.

Papers should explore how SBCC has been applied successfully to address these challenges to produce population level change. What lessons can we draw from SBCC responses to the global pandemic that might apply in a post-pandemic era?

Subthemes might include:

  • How SBCC has addressed multisectoral engagement and structural determinants. SBCC has the potential to bring diverse partners together to solve complex problems. Leveraging these opportunities requires coordinated, diverse multisectoral response at global, regional, national and local levels. The pandemic has shed light on the ability of communication to both unite and divide; what is known about it’s positive potential to integrate and coordinate efforts?
  • Harnessing SBCC for social justice. Global health, wealth, and gender disparities came into sharper focus during the COVID era, as well as how they are experienced within countries and by specific marginalized groups, including those with disabilities. How can SBCC challenge and address existing political and social power dynamics that continue to disenfranchise vast populations across the globe, across and within particular health and social development topics?
  • Nurturing new voices for change and social movements. Long-lasting social change is most often brought about by specific moments in time that lead populations to demand and create catalytic change. Recently, the growing antiracist movement and renewed interest in the climate action agenda bear witness to this fact. What role does SBCC play in catalyzing and supporting social movements? How has SBCC been able to nurture trust, engagement, empowerment, and partnership with youth and other marginalized voices?

Theme 2: Future Forward

Communication processes and technologies continue to evolve in our increasingly interconnected and mediated world. Ensuring that this evolution fosters informed and engaged participation in social and behavior change, and public discourse more broadly, is especially relevant.

Social media generally make it easier to access diverse sources of information and connect with others, but can also spread misinformation and enable close-minded echo chambers and discriminatory communities. These issues have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic as we witness the power of the digital media to disseminate and amplify disinformation, misinformation, and rumors.

Subthemes might include:

  • How digital media are transforming SBCC – both positively and negatively – and the implications for the field. How do we understand and engage with the array of evolving digital innovations, from artificial intelligence to big data to virtual reality at various levels of scale? What new technologies or mechanisms are emerging that have promise to enhance, rather than undermine, democratization and the strength and equity of civil institutions? What are the opportunities (and pitfalls) of social media and digital technologies for social connection and collaboration?
  • Issues around misinformation and disinformation might be explored within this theme with the aim of identifying effective response strategies, including technology-driven solutions. What approaches, technologies, and strategies are emerging that can help identify, monitor, and counteract disinformation and misinformation? What strategies and technologies have promise for helping us cope with future infodemics, such as the overabundance of information, both true and false?
  • The future of the field. In light of the past and current challenges some papers might examine how the field has been shaped in the time of COVID-19 and what this means for the future. How can SBCC play a more central role within the funding and political landscape? How can we optimize and advocate for the unique capabilities of SBCC to collectively and positively influence trends and strengthen applications of SBCC in praxis? What ethics should guide the field as we consider the need for greater voice, a focus on social justice, and the inevitable and growing role of digital media even in remote parts of the world?

Theme 3: Connecting the Dots

The pandemic is global and has connected us in ways we have rarely seen before. We’re connected by shared livelihoods and shared trauma, by news and digital media that bridge time and distance at unprecedented speeds, through national and subnational coordination, networks and partnerships, through international cooperation on vaccine development and deployment, and through global research and program funding. Within this theme papers might explore several types of “connection” that might strengthen SBCC processes and applications on the ground.

  • Connecting stakeholders for collective action. Communication is inherently about making connections. How might SBCC facilitate collective action, through co-design and co-creation, across different sectors, disciplines and stakeholder groups (particularly among civil society organizations, academia, professional communication workers, the private sector, and social networks), and across generations (adults, youth). How might we effectively connect digital and in-person networks, sharing platforms and tools for collaboration and capacity strengthening? How might SBCC be used to remove power imbalances across sectors and social actors and ensure equitable distribution of both responsibilities and benefits?
  • Connecting the SBCC “community of practice” to increase collaboration, share skills and resources and build capacity. The field has expanded considerably over the past decade. How, as a community, can we better facilitate cross-sectoral discourse and action? How can we use SBCC effectively to foster and strengthen partnerships for increased impact (e.g., between donors, governments, private sector corporations, civil society). Where are the gaps are in the evolution of the field related to both research and praxis and how can we address them? What more can we do to map resources and support capacity strengthening to address structural barriers and to further elevate the potential and impact of the field across communities, countries, and globally?

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