How Hewlett is Applying Behavioral Economics to Reproductive Health

The Hewlett Foundation has teamed up with Marie Stopes International (MSI) a number of times over the past few years. During that time Hewlett has awarded MSI a handful of substantial grants, including a recent $3 million give to support the implementation of the organization’s five-year organizational strategy. Hewlett’s relationship with MSI makes total sense, given that one of Hewlett's biggest funding priorities is sexual reproductive health, particularly in low-income countries and MSI is one of the largest reproductive health service organizations in the world.

What’s interesting about Hewlett’s latest 18-month, $800,000 grant to Marie Stopes, is that its main purpose is to foster a collaborative relationship with the behavioral design lab, ideas42. The grant will support the ongoing collaboration between the two organizations, which will launch a joint effort to apply “behavioral economics” toward improving the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services in MSI clinics in Uganda and Nepal.

Beginning as a small project at Harvard back in 2008, ideas42 has been studying behavioral economics in order to affect social change in matters including the improvement of family planning and reproductive health outcomes in developing countries. In Uganda, its Hewlett funded collaboration with MSI is looking into identifying behavioral challenges that prevent women from seeking out the sexual and reproductive health services offered at local MSI clinics. The hope here is that this collaboration will allow the organizations to come up with solutions to these behavioral impediments and encourage the increased use of MSIs e-vouchers. E-vouchers are provided by MSI and can be redeemed for services at local MSI clinics.

In Nepal, this collaborative work is much more focused in that the organizations are working to test interventions that will increase the likelihood of post-abortion follow up visits. This work will also seek out ways in which MSI clinics can integrate family planning as a broader sexual and reproductive health aspect of abortion care.

The Hewlett Foundation began widely supporting ideas42 back in 2013, when it adopted a new sexual and reproductive health strategy in sub-Saharan Africa that aims to put an end to unintended pregnancies in the region. Since then, the foundation has awarded nearly $3 million to ideas42, either in direct support of the organization or in support of collaborations with other like-minded outfits such as MSI and JSI Research and Training Institute.