Photo by GioRetti via Flickr.

Why this initiative?

Often, technical “solutions” introduced in the developing world fail to take hold because the individuals and communities they aim to benefit never truly embrace them. Many development interventions are centred on households, often requiring them to adopt new technologies. However, it remains largely unknown how this happens due to a lack of knowledge about how drivers of behaviour influence technology uptake.

Thus, there is a need to explore the factors that influence individual and household behaviour and decision-making in developing countries in order to better understand how such factors affect the uptake of innovative technologies.

Our aim is that insights generated from the research will help to improve the design and effectiveness of interventions, policies and products that seek to change behaviour toward adoption of clean technologies in developing counties.


We will work in areas where SEI has a strong legacy of engagement, including household energy and sustainable sanitation. We will also team up with experts in product and service design to co-learn how design-research methods can deepen our understanding of influences on human behaviour.

A defining feature of the initiative will be the iterative process used to design and implement the research, in which key boundary partners will be involved at every stage of each case study – from research design to data analysis, to prototyping and testing methods.

Boundary partner engagement will form a core part of the research, allowing us to better explore and test the enabling conditions for the uptake of innovation. This mode of working will provide us with a “knowledge lab” where solutions to real-world problems – which could be regulatory (e.g. new standards for testing cookstoves), technical (e.g. a new product) or social (e.g. new behaviour change techniques or “nudges” applied to trigger the uptake of a household intervention) – are co-designed with boundary partners and end users with the aim that they will develop ownership of the results.

Activities and outputs

In year one, the focus of activities will be on household energy in the context of Kenya. Both the national government and international development partners view Kenya as “fast track” country in terms of scaling up access to improved cookstoves. This level of interest and ongoing activity offers opportunities for us to engage with a range of actors in the cookstove sector and in policy processes in order to generate and test insights. For example, we have already developed a partnership with the Clean Cookstoves Association of Kenya and the Kenyan inter-ministerial committee on clean cooking, and we we will work closely with them to design the research and to deliver key findings to support their efforts.

Our work in the first year of the initiative includes developing an analytical framework, engaging with stakeholders in Kenya (e.g. in workshops and one-to-one meetings), and fieldwork (including household data collection, sector mapping, social network analysis and analysis of political economy).

Outputs in the first year will include long and short form publications, including a journal article. We will also use various channels and media to document our research process and emerging findings.

In year two, the focus area will be sustainable sanitation in the context of India.

Download brief about the initiative (PDF, 397kb)