March 27th, 2020
March has notably been women’s history month, however, due to the pandemic sweeping the globe, the focus has shifted. In a bid to gain some normalcy in turbulent times read our blog that takes an introspective look at the wise women of Busara. This particular edition of the behavioral lens will stay on the dial and spotlight the current COVID-19 situation, as we continue to work and strive for a new normal.

01 - Num6ers

Interesting stats or figures from the past week to put global issues in perspective


The projected amount, based on a report  by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), that Africa will lose due to the disruption of business across the world and on the continent, as a result of COVID-19.

The cost of person-to-person transactions below Kes 1,000 as implemented by Kenya’s largest telecom Safricom to encourage cashless transactions in order to stem transmission of the coronavirus.


The astounding impact of the coronavirus on the  global airline industry due to trip cancellations, and country specific restrictions on international flights, with planes grounded in a bid to flatten the curve by reducing non essential travel.


The number of COVID-19 testing kits donated by tech billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to boost the war on the virus in Africa. The first tranche of kits has been received by Rwanda and Ethiopia

02 - Fresh from the Lab

New insights, trends, and findings for behavioral science in the Global South

Behavioral research has an important bearing on the course of the coronavirus as human behavior is at the heart of the public health response to it. Such research informs the growing body of knowledge, provides an opportunity to learn how to minimize future pandemics, and avails concrete answers that can help in development of plans on how best to manage the crisis. Research at this time is key to chart how we as a society can cope with the situation at hand and ensure we come out stronger and more resilient.

Research areas to explore

As a behavioral research firm working within the global south where cases of the pandemic are now being discovered, there are areas - outlined below - we want to explore that will ultimately give a better view on how to plan, curb transmission and create best practice guidelines around COVID-19. We are pushing forward on each topic as we speak, but actively looking for partners, collaborators, and support, so if you are interested, please reach out. 

  1. What does social distancing mean in different cultures? As various organizations and government bodies call for it, the confusion on what exactly it entails in different cultures comes into play. In light of the key role this message plays in slowing down the virus, in what ways do different cultures understand it?    

  2. Where does information get lost? As governments and authorities disseminate information, we need to understand how those who are least connected receive that information, and where opportunities for misinformation arise.

  3. Can we build behavioral stamina? Many people are worried about behavioral fatigue in self-quarantine, as short term changes to lifestyle may be harder to maintain for the long run. Are there ways to help people maintain a longer-run view on this crisis?

On a similar note, a team of international researchers, including our founder Johannes Haushofer, is currently collecting survey data on how people around the world prepare and cope with the spreading coronavirus. The Measuring Worldwide COVID-19 Attitudes and Beliefs study survey has been translated into 51 languages. Fill it in, share with your networks and help contribute to great research.  

How to carry out research during COVID

Part of our efforts during this time have led us to develop creative ways to conduct relevant experiments. Our lab team has developed a lab starter pack with tips and alternative tools to consider in order to kick off experiments whilst ensuring the safety of staff and respondents. This is a great resource, especially if your research was underway and is now on-hold, or if you are thinking through how best to start and carry out your study at this time. 

03 - Links we liked

Recently published journals, papers, blog posts or just interesting snippets we enjoyed

This edition we focus on our favourite behavioral science resources to keep you safe, active, informed and aware of all things COVID-19

How to master remote work: First up is an article by the people science team that gives a behavioral perspective on virtual working. Well before the coronavirus outbreak, the rise of freelance workers led to an increase in the number of people working from home. However, due to this global pandemic, many traditional employees now have to follow suit. The question is, how do you stay productive and connected in a space that has predominantly been yours to wind down? The article gives a number of great nuggets like

  • Intentionally block time to tackle tasks as a way to ensure your to-do list is whittled down.

  • Create social connections that can help you enhance engagement and leverage non verbal cues and reactions, similar to in-person meetings, like insisting on video calls  - pants on of course. 

An  insightful read with tools and tips to help you stay on track of work as you telecommute.

A guide to social distancing: Considered why social distancing is hard to implement even when various governments are using this as their core message to help slow down the spread of COVID-19? The Ideas42 team has, as it turns out, part of the challenge is that the term ‘social distancing’ can be ambiguous if you have not interacted with it before and are not aware of what it entails. With that in mind, the article gives ideas on easier ways to frame messaging such as,

  • Be specific on advice that ought to be followed. For example, instead of saying don’t leave your house except for essential activities, break down the message to include aspects that generally lead people to leave the house, like call/video chat with your friends and family instead of visiting in person.

  • Outline important consequences of inaction by giving realistic effects to lack of adherence. An example is this message tested in Rome, "You could be infected without symptoms. If you go out, you could infect 45 people within two weeks, and 2000 within a month".

An impactful resource to help organizations, friends and family navigate social distancing.

Proper hand washing: Yes there is a proper way to go about personal hand hygiene. Due to the virus we understand that, now more than ever, the rush job of running soap and water, and rubbing our palms together does not cut it when it comes to cleaning hands. For starters, a minimum duration of twenty seconds is required to get your hands clean, but even then, what kind of technique are you using? The behavioral insights team ran an online experiment to test 7 step-by-step designs that showed people how to wash their hands. 3 stood out in terms of how well people remembered their key message and how likely they were to thoroughly wash their hands after seeing them. Common themes between the three, bright infographics and minimal text.

Check them out and confirm if you are washing your hands properly.

Please continue to practice good hygiene habits - handy guide here -, monitor your own health and observe social distancing. Working together we can and will get through this.
Take care and have a good weekend!
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