The recently published report by UNDP Myanmar and UNU-CS poses the questions ‘To Enable Positive Behavioural Change, Does Development Need a Structured Approach to Inspiration?’.
The more individuals are inspired, the more likely individuals are, to set and successfully achieve goals. In a relatively new body of empiric scientific evidence, inspiration was found to correlate positively with intrinsic motivation, work mastery and creativity. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that inspiration bolsters psychological resources such as perceived competence, self-esteem and optimism.
Inspiration has become an integral component of mission statements and business strategies of many of the world most behaviorally changing tech companies and platforms of this century: from Apple using the best of design ‘to inspire and educate communities’ around the world, to TED.com ‘building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers’, to Microsoft using ‘inspiration to bring together executives, trailblazers, and visionaries’, to companies of the likes of Google and Facebook which continuously improve on the look and functionality of their platforms to inspire an ever increasing pool of users.
Whilst the most successful of private sector businesses and corporations thrive on inspiration and the most successful of educated individuals consume millions of books and videos daily to be inspired, yet, for the world poorest billion, living in scarcity of money, health and education, the type of inspiration which fosters positive behavioural change is rarely fine tuned and structured to met their needs. The optimal circumstances for inspiration to flourish and for individuals to become inspired to set goals for personal and societal improvement are lacking. Harvard behavioural economists Mullainathan and Shafir’s have documented in great depth the seemingly irrational behavioural patterns of individuals living in scarcity, proving the malleability of intelligence, how intelligence can decrease under pressure but crucially how intelligence can thrive and improve under optimal conditions.
The ‘Behavioural Insights and the United Nations – Achieving the 2030 Agenda’ 2016 report evidences that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without a critical examination of the behavioural factors that lead people to make decisions, act on them and influence one another. The report argues that in order for ‘development programmes to have maximum impact, they must be designed using the latest research on what drives people to meaningfully engage with such programmes’. It is precisely on this premise that the UNDP Myanmar iWomen Inspiring Women Project was designed. iWomen Inspiring Women Project is the first UNDP Myanmar project which experiments directly with the use of inspiration to unlock positive behavioral change to achieve the 2030 Agenda, specifically SDG1 No Poverty, SDG4 Gender Equality and SDG16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. iWomen Inspiring Women Project has experimented with inspiration in many different ways, the project has developed a stream of inspiration to foster Myanmar rural women into capable leaders by:
- Building an on-line library of personal inspiring stories written by the project beneficiaries themselves, by high-profile international women as well as by well-know Myanmar women;
- Creating an inspiring dialogue between rural women and young cartoonist and techies to co-design and co-develop every aspect of the project: from educational cartoons, to campaign videos, to a mobile application;
- Encouraging project beneficiaries to express themselves and explore their potential thanks to poetry, photography and design competitions and by doing so gaining full ownership of the project.
Precisely, as evangelized by Silicon Valley tech giants, the iWomen technology project was co-designed, every step of the way, in equal partnership with the project beneficiaries. Using the human centered design methodology, UNDP iWomen Inspiring Women team and the project beneficiaries strived to achieve an optimal circumstance whereby inspiration would flourish, whereby the current knowledge of rural Myanmar women would interact with new external information provided by the iWomen App leading to a bolstering of psychological resources: self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, work-mastery and creativity, which are key for rural women community leaders.
The iWomen Inspiring Women App currently connects 20,000 rural women from 2,000 separate savings groups into one network. This application aims to capture rural women’s attention by sharing human interest personal stories (Be Inspired Function); giving access to knowledge on topics such as renewable energy, entrepreneurship, market, laws, rights, technology (Be Knowledgeable Function); providing a platform where women can discuss, in private, issues of concern and receive remote mentorship (Talk Together and Be Together); running competitions with prizes to embed the knowledge in the rural women’s minds and functioning as a project monitoring and evaluation tool (Ready to Play Function).
The recently published report by UNDP Myanmar and UNU-CS poses the question ‘To Enable Positive Behavioural Change, Does Development Need a Structured Approach to Inspiration?’. The report answers that question with a resounding yes, development does need a structured approach to inspiration. With a parade of examples and in-depth analysis the UNDP UNU-CS report proves beyond doubt that in order to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, inspiration has to be a key part of development for the world’s poorest billion.