Participatory research toolkit for social norms measurement (December 2020)

Manual and Guideline
Originally published



Participatory research methods empower and encourage participants to discuss complex and sensitive topics in engaging ways that can complement traditional research methods. In this Participatory Research Toolkit for Social Norms Measurement, nine participatory tools are introduced and an explanation of what each of them measures is given.

Examples of how they have been used are also included and instructions for their use are given. Finally, suggestions are given for analysis of the data produced by the tools to qualitatively measure social norms (see Figure 1).


This toolkit is a practical ‘how to’ document for researchers, programme planners, programme implementers and evaluation experts, and is intended to enhance their social-norms-related efforts. By including examples from a variety of social and behaviour change initiatives that have successfully incorporated these methods into measuring social norms, this toolkit illustrates the utility and capacities of each tool (see Figure 2).


Anyone can use this toolkit, regardless of their level of experience with qualitative and participatory research methods. Specifically, programme planners, implementers, evaluators, donors and researchers who are focused on social norms and other related factors (e.g., attitudes, behaviour, and social networks) will benefit from using this toolkit.

Data gathered using these tools can be used on their own, or can be used to validate quantitative data and allow for a more holistic interpretation of findings. Participatory research tools facilitate and engage intended beneficiaries of social norms programming throughout the programme cycle (see Figure 3)


This toolkit can be used in a variety of ways. We suggest you start with four steps to adapt this toolkit for your needs (see Figure 4).

Once you commit to using the tools described here, create a mechanism to ensure that the information generated is accessible and understandable to all key stakeholders, including programme participants, so that they can utilize the results to improve community-driven programmatic efforts.


Using participatory methods – either on their own or in combination with other quantitative or qualitative research efforts – is ideal for examining social norms, offering several advantages over traditional research methods (see Figure 5).

These tools have been incorporated into community-based interventions as programme activities that serve a dual purpose of fulfilling programme objectives while also providing behavioural monitoring data to assess programme implementation. This toolkit does not go into detail about how to disseminate and utilize the information collected through participatory methods. Monitoring behaviours systematically over time means that we do not have to wait before seeing if change is starting to occur. If behaviours are beginning to shift, then we know that our social and behaviour change efforts are working and we are heading in the right direction (towards our expected medium-term outcomes). However, if behaviours are not changing, then there is an opportunity to review and revise the interventions. This creates a feedback loop, where information can be used to adjust our approaches, activities, channels and even messages, so that the programme as a whole is better positioned to reach its expected objectives. Using participatory methods further allows for engaging community members in the research process; these activities therefore become part of an empowerment process, through which community members gain knowledge and skills for the co-creation of knowledge that is frequently transferrable to other contexts and issues.