IRH, with support from the USAID-funded Passages project and members from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Learning Collaborative to Advance Normative Change, developed the Social Norms Exploration Guide & Toolkit (SNET), a participatory guide and set of tools to translate theory into practical guidance.

Step-by-step guidance, exercises, and templates in the toolkit can help program implementers:

  • Understand social norms theory and concepts
  • Prepare staff to identify and investigate social norms
  • Engage community members using participatory learning exercises to 1) identify reference groups, and 2) explore social norms influencing behaviors
  • Analyze information with project team and communities
  • Use findings to inform the design of norms-shifting activities and develop good evaluation tools

A field-tested version of the guide is being applied in over 10 countries and is available for use. IRH can provide distance and in-country technical assistance to organizations and projects that wish to use it. The experiences and learnings from the field-testing of the SNET will inform revisions for a final version ready for dissemination in 2020.

Are you interested in using  or learning more about the SNET? Contact us at

Download the pilot brief  | Download the fact sheet 

Phase 1: Plan and Prepare

Plan and Prepare 

In the first phase, programmers first reflect on norms that may be influencing behavioral outcomes of interest, then defines the exploration objectives and chooses and prepares participatory exercises.


Phase 2: Identify Reference Groups

Identify Reference Groups

In this phase, programmers ask project participants to identify whom they seek advice from and who influences their behavior (reference groups). Tools include My Social Networks.

Phase 3: Explore Social Norms

Explore Social Norms 

In this phase, programmers ask project participants and reference group members about factors influencing specific behaviors, unpacking norms and their relative influence. Tools included in this section include Vignettes, Problem Tree and the Five Whys.

Phase 4: Further Compile & Analyze Findings

Further Compile & Analyze Findings

In this next-to-final phase, programmers conduct participatory analysis exercises, identifying the norms that influence behaviors of interest, their relative influence and consequences of following or violating norms.

Phase 5: Apply Findings to Program

Apply Findings to Program 

Finally, in this phase programmers use the information to inform program design, focusing on developing specific strategies to address the most important norms and engage reference groups and power holders, or adjust existing programs accordingly.