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Indicators in behaviour change campaigns

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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In campaigns that seek to influence people’s attitudes and behaviour, cognitive variables such as attitude and knowledge change among individuals and in wider society are often used as indicators. Common examples include the following:


Notes and sample questions



Most campaigns have a knowledge or awareness component, particularly in their early stages. Surveys or opinion polls conducted with the target audience can measure knowledge and awareness at the outset and in later stages of the campaign. Sample questions: What forms of VAW do you know? Are there any laws that prohibit VAW? What exactly is it these laws forbid?


This measures how important an issue is. Often there may be high awareness of an issue, but it is not seen as important (e.g. domestic violence). Sample question: How many times does the local media mention the campaign issue? What percentage of respondents spontaneously mention the campaign issue when asked about major problems affecting their community?


Attitudes are considered to be closely related to behaviour and behaviour-change. Measurement of attitudes should focus precisely on the attitudes the campaign intends to change, or that are known to be closely linked to the desired behaviour-change.

Bear in mind: As attitudes and attitude change are often captured through self-reports (i.e. members of the target audience report on change), responses may be distorted by the respondents’ wish to give socially acceptable or desirable answers. To triangulate data, try to obtain information from 2 or 3 sources. Sample question: In a campaign to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), a sample of the target audience may be asked: is it necessary for girls to be “circumcised”?

Social norms

This refers to the perceived standards of acceptable attitudes and behaviours among a person’s peer group or other people important to that person. Commonly, measurements of attitudes (see above) are used to assess social norms.


This is a person’s belief that he or she has the ability or competency to perform a particular behaviour in different circumstances. It is a key element in social cognitive behaviour-change theory. Sample questions: What can you do to protect yourself from violence? What can you do to end violence against girls in your school? 

Behavioural intentions

This measures the likelihood that a person will engage in a specific behaviour (e.g. calling the police). Just like attitudes, intentions are not always a reliable predictor of behaviour, since actual action may not be taken despite the intention. Sample questions: Will you use any of the advice given on the campaign site? Will you seek specialist help if your partner hits you again? Will you ring the bell at your neighbors’ home if you hear a violent fight is going on there? 


Behaviour-change can only be a meaningful measure of success if the campaign explicitly asks people to perform a specific behaviour (e.g. call a helpline, call the police). It may seem easy to assess: a person either does or does not engage in certain behaviour. But, where behaviour is mostly captured through self-reports, distortions may occur. Direct response tracking is a more reliable method to assess specific behaviour-change, for example: When callers use a helpline advertised by a campaign, they should be asked near the end of the interview (explaining it is for assessment of campaign effectiveness): “have you called this number before? How did you obtain this number?”


Skills may be necessary to perform a particular behaviour; their presence or absence may have an effect on campaign results. This may include highly complex skills, such as conflict or anger management. Sample measurement: To get a better idea of the nature of change prompted by a campaign, members of the target audience can be asked to discuss changes in their skills in focus group discussions. E.g., men may be asked to describe whether they have learnt to deal with feelings of anger in a different way, and how.

Environmental constraints

This refers to external factors that can make the performance of a behaviour difficult or impossible. For example, a bystander witnesses an abusive situation, such as a man physically threatening a woman on a train and wants to intervene, but cannot physically get to the parties involved.

See the section on Situation analysis under Campaign Planning in this module for advice on data collection.

Media Framing

This refers to important outcomes for campaigns that aim to affect how the media portrays, i.e. frames certain issues. Content analysis, i.e. the analysis of what is written, said or depicted according to guiding questions relevant to the campaign, is the most common way to explore media framing.

For example, guiding questions to assess the way in which media portrays rape may include: Does the text or image unambiguously present rape as a crime? Are there any elements in the text or image that suggest the rape survivor’s behaviour justified rape (“victim-blaming”)?