How using Behavioural Insights (BI) methods helps in assessing its impact
Initiatives for strengthening social cohesion and building youth resilience (especially against involvement in anti-social and/or criminal activities) encounter numerous implementation and impact measurement challenges. The first being effective implementation of the intervention with vulnerable groups in line with the ‘do no harm’ principle, while the second relates to robust measurement of the impact. Traditional impact assessment measures fail to penetrate the complex web of behaviours, relationships, and individual and collective attitudes that determine an individual’s vulnerability to involvement in criminal or anti-social activities.
These challenges are especially pronounced in a prison’s setting. Development practitioners working on the reintegration and rehabilitation of prisoners must ensure that the interventions are holistic (encompassing social, psychological, and economic elements), inclusive (benefitting the target population irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, or income status etc.), and realistic (responsive to the situation on ground). Furthermore, traditional impact assessment tools based on direct questioning from project beneficiaries are ineffective in prison settings because of the presence of jail authorities and law enforcement personnel during impact assessment exercises. Their presence often leads to overwhelmingly positive feedback which is not reflective of the actual situation on ground.
Based on the above theory of change, we used the ‘Oneness’ tool to measure the extent to which young prisoners’ connectedness with their families, relatives, friends, workplace colleagues, and community gatekeepers improved or deteriorated following the intervention. The results showed an overwhelmingly positive impact of our interventions in terms of enhancing the young prisoners’ positive social connectedness, indicating encouraging prospects for their reintegration and rehabilitation after release. In this regard, the BI tool accurately determined the project’s impact by indirectly measuring intervention impact, using proxy indicators pertaining to social connectedness; where a direct inquiry would not have yielded correct results. Furthermore, by probing the impact of the project in terms of positively strengthening young people’s relationship with their social networks, the tool was able to measure the extent to which young people involved in petty offences were vulnerable to carrying out more serious criminal acts including violent extremism.