OverviewDo’s and don’ts
Related Tools

Key issues in community mobilization

Last edited: January 03, 2012

This content is available in

  • Community assessment must precede any community intervention, so that planned activities match the needs and assets of the target audience. Participatory research such as participatory rural assessment, and participatory strategy and/or action planning with prospective target audiences are most likely to yield the rich qualitative information needed, and to generate momentum for the campaign. See also Campaign Planning and Campaign Strategy in this module for guidance and tools on campaign research and analysis.
  • Ensure that the community mobilization strategy is based on a theory of change. There are a number of theories based on psychological and social sciences that provide a framework for thinking about pathways to change. 
  • Communicating, early and clearly, the purpose and nature of the campaign prevents raising and disappointing expectations, e.g. any hopes by members of the community to receive immediate benefits such as financial support, etc.
  • Participative monitoring and evaluation with target audience members helps to understand what change means within the particular community. What may seem irrelevant to an outsider can be a bold step forward within a particular community.
  • To prevent message drift or local activities that may conflict with the campaign strategy, community activities should be accompanied and monitored by experienced campaigners who can solve issues arising around misinterpretations in a constructive, participatory process.


The initiators of Raising Voices argue for comprehensive community mobilization, which includes elements of campaigning as well as local projects to improve services:

“Comprehensive community mobilization is . . . .

-      Working with the whole community- women and men, young people, and children

-      Seeking to encourage individuals as well as the community to embark on a process of change

-      Using multiple strategies over time to build a critical mass of individuals supportive of women’s rights

-      Supporting people to face the fact that violence isn’t something ‘out there’ that ‘happens to other people’: it is something we all grapple with in our relationships

-      Inspiring and creating activism among a cross section of community members

-      Multi-faceted

Community mobilization is not . . .

-      Only raising awareness

-      Only capacity building

-      Working with one sector, group, sex

-      Ad hoc or sporadic

-      A series of one-off activities

-      Pointing fingers, blaming, assigning fault

-      Top down programme implementation by an NGO to a community

-      Neat and completed within short timeframes

-      Message-based”

Raising Voices employs the “stages of change” theory which contains 5 stages as follows:

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation: Individuals do not recognize violence against women as a problem or as an issue with consequences for their life. They would not intervene to aid a friend or family member experiencing violence.

Stage 2: Contemplation: Individuals begin to consider that violence against women relates to their life, either because they have recently become aware of violence against women or have recently begun to recognize violence as a problem rather than a normal part of life for women.

Stage 3: Preparation for Action: Individuals gets more information and develop an intention to act. At this point they may be willing to intervene or assist a victim of violence.

Stage 4 Action: Individuals try new and different ways of thinking and behaving and take action to intervene or assist when a girl or women is threatened with or experiences violence; or to influence the environment where they live and work.

Stage 5: Maintenance: Individuals recognize the benefits of behaviour change and maintain it. They continue to take actions to help girls and women who are threatened with or experience violence in their community.

The diagram below depicts the Raising Voices theory of change

Raising Voices has developed a detailed curriculum in simple language which guides campaign activists through every step of running a community campaign to end violence against women and girls. The core idea is to build critical mass for change across the community (Michau, 2007. Approaching old problems in new ways):

See the full Raising Voices Community Mobilization case study.

A full set of booklets providing practical guidance on all steps of the Raising Voices campaign, starting from community assessment, can be downloaded at no cost from the website.

Example: In the High Plateaux of Minembwe (South Kivu, D.R.Congo), forced marriage of girls under 18 was extremely common. In most villages, the crime locally known as “mariage par rapt” (French for “marriage by abduction”) used to occur every few weeks. Young girls would be kidnapped and gang-raped by groups of local young men, and forced to marry one of the perpetrators. The local development NGO UGEAFI exposed the practice through formative research involving survivors, perpetrators and a range of other stakeholders including parents and priests, who often conspired, “legalizing” under-age marriage with traditional rites.

In focus group discussions and public meetings, UGEAFI stimulated open discussions on the beliefs and motivations for “marriage by abduction”, and its harmful effects on individuals and the community as a whole. UGEAFI distributed and explained relevant family law and criminal code texts to local administrators and priests, many of whom had been unaware of existing legislation. In parallel, UGEAFI also ran a programme to facilitate girls’ school attendance which included the introduction of fuel-saving stoves and mechanic manioc and maize mills, so as to reduce household chores that used to keep girls out of school. In cooperation with a secondary school, UGEAFI introduced vocational training classes and encouraged girls to take courses previously reserved to men, such as veterinary training. Community mobilization against a harmful “traditional” practice was thus combined with vigorous action for greater gender equality.

In 2010, five years into the campaign, UGEAFI reports that forced marriage has become extremely rare in Minembwe (1-2 cases per year), as communities now condemn it as harmful and local authorities increasingly refuse to condone the practice. 

Source: Gudile Nasine and Butoto Bigiri Naum, UGEAFI, personal communication.


See the primary prevention module.

Community Conversation Toolkit (AED/C-Change, 2010). Available in English.

Raising Voices Community-based Violence Prevention Program Materials. Available in English

Social and Behavior Change Communication Capacity Assessment Tool (Communication for Change, 2011).  Available in English. 

A Learning Package for Social and Behavior Change Communication (Communications for Social Change, 2010).  Available in English. 

Communication for Social Change Website. Available in English.