United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and University of Pennsylvania are jointly launching a free massive open online course on social norms and social change. Drawing from UNICEF’s experience in the field, the course includes many examples of norms that sustain behaviors like child marriage, gender violence and poor sanitation practices. Participants learn from field cases of remarkable change in entrenched social practices.
The complete course, which consists of one theoretical and one practical part á 4 weeks coursework, is taught in English. Students who already attended previous sessions of the course rated the first part of the course with 4.5 and the second part of the course with 5.0 out of 5.0 possible points.
The first course will teach students how to make the distinction between social norms and social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. The course teaches how to measure social norms and the expectations that support them, and how to decide whether they cause specific behaviors. The second part of the course will examine social change, the tools that might be used to enact change and put into practice everything that has been learnt in the first part of the course.
The course is led by Cristina Bicchieri, the S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Bicchieri founded Penn SONG, the Penn Social Norms consulting group, and the Behavioral Ethics Lab (BeLab). She has has consulted for organizations such as UNICEF, Wellspring, CARE, BBC Media, the Gates Foundation, the World Bank and DFID.
While both course parts are available for free, those who want to receive a certification by UNICEF and University of Pennsylvania can opt-in for a paid verified certificate.