NOVAFRICA Podcast: Empowering Adolescents to Transform Schools: Lessons from a Behavioural Targeting

Episode 5 of the 5th Season of the NOVAFRICA Sustainable Development Talks was recorded with Sule Alan, from European University Institute.
Our guest talked about her paper entitled “Empowering Adolescents to Transform Schools: Lessons from a Behavioural Targeting”.

We test the effectiveness of a behavioral approach to empowering adolescents to improve their social environment. The approach rests upon the premise that connecting self-persuasion with cognitive dissonance can yield a more robust behavioral change in challenging adolescents. We enlist socially connected, influential senior students with high emotional intelligence as “student-teachers” to deliver an empowerment curriculum to junior students in highly disadvantaged violence-ridden middle schools. Using randomized variation in program implementation, we show that this indirect targeting of senior students reduces disciplinary actions and anti-social behavior in schools and increases supportive network ties between senior and junior students. The targeting significantly lowers the tolerance for unfair behavior, measured by an incentivized third-party punishment task. We also show that treated student-teachers and their close networks (in-degree ties) report better mental well-being, higher self-worth, and internal locus of control.