Tipping Point: Using Social Network Theory to Accelerate Scale and Impact

As of 2012, Niger had the highest prevalence of child marriage and adolescent fertility in the world, with 79% of women aged 20-24 married by the time they are 18, and 186 births per 1,000 adolescents. Although there are many social and behavioral interventions to address family planning (FP) uptake and reduce adolescent fertility, there is little evidence on the critical roles of social networks, and the social norms held within these networks, on the impact and implementation of FP interventions especially in low and middle-income country settings. Drs. Jay Silverman and Holly Shakya, in partnership with Save the Children US, L’Initiative OASIS Niger, and GEH co-investigator Rebecka Lundgren, are conducting a 4.5-year study to develop and evaluate the effectiveness and scalability of a social network-based vs. standard intervention to improve FP uptake among married adolescent girls and young women in rural Maradi, Niger. This work builds on the previous work of Drs. Silverman and Shakya’s evaluation of Pathfinder’s Reaching Married Adolescents (RMA) intervention in Dosso, Niger, and their pilot social network assessment and analysis in this same context, which indicated the diffusion of the benefits of RMA through the social networks of direct recipients of the program. To assess the relative effectiveness of the social network-informed approach, a three-arm cluster randomized controlled trial will be conducted among low parity women and girls (ages 15-24 years) in 51 villages in Maradi. If the social network-based approach is found to be more effective, and no more difficult to scale, than the standard program (i.e. no less feasible, cost-effective, acceptable, faithful), this approach will scale across a larger geography and population in Niger, with concurrent assessment of scaling success. This study will be the first large-scale field experiment to test the utility of social norms and social network theory for maximizing the impact of a reproductive health intervention.

Supported By: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Project Contact: Holly Shakya, hshakya@health.ucsd.edu

Holly Shakya, PhD – Primary Investigator
Jay Silverman, PhD – Primary Investigator
Rebecka Lundgren, PhD – Co-Investigator
Kevin Iredell, MPH – Research Project Manager

Principal Investigator

  • Holly (Shakya) Baker, PhD Agency for All
    Deputy Director, Technical Director for Research

    The Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science

Maradi Region of Niger


To support work at GEH, Make a Donation Online Today, or call Gift Processing at (858) 534-9648

Contact Us

Please reach out to us with any questions, comments, or feedback that you may have and we will get back to you at our earliest convenience!

Start typing and press Enter to search