Behaviour-Centred Design research methods for safe interventions in child faeces management

A Solomon Islands University researcher is sharing picture cards with a community member in a table outdoors to help understand behaviours around management of child faeces

Solomon Islands National University Researchers, including Sheilla Funobo (below) and Patishadel Jonah interviewed community participants to understand routines, motives and settings that affect CFM behaviours, here Patishadel is pictured with a community member looking at picture cards of behaviours to assist in the research. (Solomon Islands National University)


The Safe-CFM (child faeces management) researchers from the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) recently returned from visiting communities north west of the capital of Honiara, Solomon Islands on their second round of formative research data collection. The SINU team, supported remotely from across the world as an adaptation to the circumstances of COVID-19, was welcomed into the villages to conduct over 80 different data-gathering activities that will inform the co-design of community interventions that promote safe CFM practices across the country.


International Water Centre and Griffith University's purpose-built CFM research tools were designed around the Evo-Eco model of behaviour change and Behaviour-Centred Design. According to researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are partnered with the International WaterCentre@Griffith and SINU on this project, our brains have evolved to provide adaptive behavioural responses to rapidly changing or complex environmental conditions (Aunger & Curtis, 2014). This means behaviour is a flexible and adaptive response to changes to these conditions.

The research tools used were intended to allow community members to express the motives, habits, settings, and societal norms that influence how they currently manage their children’s faeces, and how things have changed over time. We also asked questions around local epistemologies, or ‘ways-of-knowing’ to better understand where knowledge comes from and how trust in knowledge is developed.


A picture is worth a thousand words – collecting data using picture cards in Solomon Islands

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Research undertaken in a community in Solomon Islands, a women and a mother sit outdoors

The researchers surveyed mothers, fathers, and grandmothers with children under 5 years old, and conducted key informative interviews with community leaders. The team used storytelling, picture prompt cards, and appreciative inquiry to connect with research participants. They also asked questions to better understand how Community-Led-Total-Sanitation (CLTS) had impacted each community, to help inform the sorts of CFM interventions that could be effectively integrated into the national CLTS program.


Families in Guadalcanal reported a mix of child faeces management practices and routines, including disposal in toilets, burying, and throwing in the bush, mangroves or on rubbish heaps. Mothers and fathers were motivated by a desire to do the best for their child and their health (nurture motive), as well as disgust of an unclean environment and, occasionally, a desire to fit in to the norms of the community. An important theme that many community members discussed was gender roles and the gendered division of labour in their communities, with much of the childcare and washing duties reported as the responsibility of women.


The project team will now analyse the data in consultation with our research partners to in preparation for co-design of child faeces management programs in the Solomon Islands with CSO partners and government representatives. The research team is working with a Solomon Islands gender expert to help ensure this next phase of intervention design does not inadvertently increase the burden on women.


Learn more on IWC@Griffith's website

SINU learns about what drives child-faeces -management behaviours in Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands 




The Solomon Islands Infant and Child Faeces Management project is managed by the International WaterCentre @ Griffith University and delivered with research partners, Solomon Islands National University, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The research is funded by Water for Women.


For more information, contact Rosie Sanderson at



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