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Messaging Campaign to Reduce Orphanage Use in Cambodia Provides Mixed Results


  • Resource-strapped parents in Cambodia turn to orphanages to raise their children, but conditions in orphanages can be even worse
  • Abt Global and partners conducted formative research in 36 suburban villages and a behavior change messaging campaign
  • Messages targeting parents had a limited effect and varied by platform
The Challenge

Some Cambodian parents fear they can’t give their kids food, clothes, and education – a future. So these desperate parents hand their children over to orphanages, though they aren’t orphans. The children often face poor care and family separation at best and abuse at worst. Not knowing that 77 percent of the kids in orphanages have living parents, well-meaning donors support the institutions.

The Approach

Abt Global and R4D conducted formative research in 36 suburban villages to understand how people receive information and why families put their children in orphanages. Abt then worked with the Cambodian Children’s Trust on a social and behavior change campaign (SBCC) to try to change donors’ and parents’ perceptions of the orphanages — and the risks they pose. Abt randomly selected villages to receive the typical social-work model and others to receive that model plus the four-month SBCC campaign. Abt’s household surveys using the rapid feedback monitoring evaluation research and learning approach will assess the campaign’s effectiveness in changing perceptions.

The Results

The evaluation found that the SBCC campaign had a small effect on whether respondents believe they would ever send their child to an orphanage. The campaign exposure was limited, which may have limited the impact of the campaign. In addition, the campaign content may have limited the impact as the negative campaign message on the harms of orphanages was not believable to many respondents. The evaluation found that the ads were effective in changing donors’ and volunteers’ perceptions about orphanages on Facebook, but we did not detect an effect on Google. The campaign did not affect the likelihood of donating or volunteering, however. We found that Facebook is more cost effective than Google in changing people’s opinions. Facebook may be a more effective platform because it reaches a different audience from Google and the platform allows for additional ad content, viewer interaction, and ad sharing through social networks. Google does not.