Awareness raising isn’t always well understood, and therefore continues to raise the question: does it work? The short answer is yes, if done right. Including a research component into your awareness raising activities allows you to measure the impact.
Take migration for example. Studies have repeatedly shown that many irregular migration journeys are undertaken with limited or biased information – both about the potential risks, as well as the alternatives (such as regular migration and local opportunities).
To address this, IOM’s Awareness Raising Unit applies innovative approaches to fill this information gap, and ultimately empower young people to make informed migration related decisions. Through its Migrants as Messengers program, IOM builds the capacity of returned migrants in West Africa to carry out peer-to-peer communication activities at community level. The aim is to raise awareness about the risks of irregular migration and provide information on alternatives through community dialogues, theatre, film, radio, art, music and more.
A 2019 impact assessment of the program underscores its effectiveness: after exposure to a Migrants as Messengers activity, 25 per cent of respondents were more aware of the multiple risks associated with irregular migration compared to the control group, and 20 per cent indicated reduced irregular migration intention. Ongoing monitoring of the program suggests continued impact. In a series of post-exposure surveys conducted from 2021 to 2022, 74 per cent of respondents stated that the Migrants as Messengers activity made them “totally” reconsider their plans to migrate irregularly.
The IOM X West Africa program applies a social and behaviour change approach, in which community members are supported to design their own activities to raise awareness about regular migration and local opportunities. In The Gambia, a pre- and post-knowledge, attitude and intended practice (KAP) study in 2021 showed a 14 per cent decrease in intention to migrate irregularly among young people after exposure to IOM X activities. Perception of the risks associated with irregular migration increased 6 per cent, and 10 per cent felt better informed about regular migration processes.
Following IOM X activities in Guinea in 2019, a KAP study indicated an 8 per cent increase in knowledge about where to find accurate information on regular migration. Attitudes also positively shifted: prior to exposure, 87 per cent of respondents stated that it was not worth the cost and time to get a proper passport, which reduced by 30 per cent following the IOM X activity.
In Nigeria in 2019, there was an 18 per cent increase in the number of respondents who knew where to get information on regular migration following exposure to IOM X activities. The same increase was seen with regards to advising friends and family against irregular migration.
Critical to answering the question, “Does awareness raising work?”, is research. Not only does this enable you to assess whether the intervention had its intended impact, but it ensures that your intervention is tailored specifically to your target audience. Here are some tips:
- Establish a baseline: Prior to starting an awareness raising intervention, you need to find out what your audience knows, thinks and intends to do with regards to the topic you plan to address. This information can be captured through a knowledge, attitude and intended practice (KAP) survey. Use the baseline results to determine what the key points are that need to be addressed.
- Understand the audience’s media consumption habits: Survey the audience (most easily combined with the KAP baseline data collection) to gauge how they get information. Do they listen to radio? If yes, what station and what time of day? Delve into who they trust when it comes to information. Do they believe what they read in WhatsApp groups? Or would they more likely believe information that comes directly from family or friends? This enables you to determine the best format and dissemination plan for your intervention.
- Conduct an endline: By administering the same KAP survey to the target audience following the intervention, you can see whether there have been any demonstrable shifts in the audience’s knowledge, attitude or intended practice with regard to the topic. This enables you to quantify the impact of the intervention and use the findings to identify future programming needs.
Interested in learning more about participatory approaches to research?