Our international development work tackles some of the most urgent policy challenges in low- and middle-income countries, including revenue generation, financial inclusion and public health.
Strong local partnerships are critical in developing solutions that will adapt, improve and scale. We work with a range of partners from sovereign governments to development agencies, foreign services and non-governmental organisations. This work drives change by pairing our skills and resources in behavioural science and our subject matter expertise with those organisations’ unique knowledge and experience.
International Rescue Committee partnership
Building new BI teams with governments
Maternal health in Mexico
Tuberculosis in Moldova
We work with the International Rescue Committee, Plan International, War Child Holland and Innovations for Poverty Action on the LEGO-funded PlayMatters project. This initiative aims to encourage adults (teachers, caregivers and community members) to support learning through play among refugee and host community children in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
In the future, BIT will take the lead on behavioural mapping, prototyping and piloting of interventions, with the goal of ultimately reaching 800,000 children in the region.
Women’s rights remain a pressing issue worldwide. For example, at least one in three women in Latin America have experienced intimate partner violence, only 23 per cent of women in Africa have access to modern contraceptive methods, and at work, women continue to have lower rates of participation, progression and reward for the hours they put in compared to men.
We work with partners around the world (the United Nations Development Programme, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the International Planned Parenthood Federation) to support the advancement of women’s rights in low- and middle-income countries.
This work includes tackling gender-based violence and promoting bystander interventions in Bangladesh, Georgia, Latin America and South Africa. We are also promoting access to sexual and reproductive health services and education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Kenya and Nigeria, and supporting female economic empowerment in Eastern Europe.
We have built the capacity of our partner institutions in all three countries to apply BIT’s TESTS methodology.
This has involved delivering workshops to more than 1,000 participants as well as working with over 75 policymakers on TESTS projects. Together with these partners, we have now launched 21 trials to test behavioural interventions.
In 2015 and 2016, BIT worked with the president’s office in Mexico on a large trial aimed at improving maternal health. The project was implemented with Prospera, Mexico’s world-famous cash-transfer programme, which provides conditional financial incentives for families.
Women who received the cash transfers and became pregnant were encouraged to use a new two-way SMS system (i.e. where both parties could send messages) called Prospera Digital – one of the first of its kind in the world. Instead of straightforward government health advice, the women were given the chance to interact and influence the advice they received, create personalised appointment reminders and plan for emergencies as well as the delivery of their child. The programme was implemented across five states in Mexico.
The provisional results of this trial are promising, indicating that the babies born to the women in the programme had improved health and weight. We will continue to analyse the data and should be ready to publish the trial’s findings in January 2021, including rich and interesting qualitative results.
Tuberculosis (TB) still causes the deaths of 1.6 million people each year globally, despite the presence of an effective treatment. The barrier to people accessing treatment is predominantly behavioural: the treatment often requires a six-month course, which has to be taken even after symptoms are not visible.
To overcome this barrier, the World Health Organization recommends directly observed treatment (DOT), where patients are observed by a doctor or nurse as they take their medication. This approach has had mixed results – it can result in some patients taking the medication for longer, but for others the requirement to visit a clinic acts as an additional barrier.
Moldova has one of the highest rates of multi-drug-resistant TB in the world and follows DOT. In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, the Moldovan Ministry of Health, and Act for Involvement, BIT created a virtual form of DOT (called VOT) where patients were able to record videos of themselves taking their medication. These videos could then be submitted to a medical professional for verification, removing the need for the patient to go to a clinic.
Using a small-scale randomised control trial, we found that VOT increased observed adherence from 44 per cent for DOT patients to 84 per cent for VOT patients. The Moldovan Ministry of Health now plans to scale access to VOT across the country.