Client: Rain Barrel, UNICEF

Nudge to ensure hand washing with soap, optimizing hygiene and health in Lao communities

Handwashing with soap is a critical tool in the global fight against deadly infections and viruses (e.g., COVID-19). However, in many parts of the world (incl. Laos), children, parents, teachers, and healthcare workers don’t have access to basic hand washing facilities, putting them at a high risk of getting viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19. Moreover, access to medical treatment is also limited, making people living in areas with frequent public gatherings in crowded spaces like markets, public transport, or places of worship at high risk. As part of a partnership with the Lao PDR Ministry of Education, UNICEF has launched a behavior change program developing nudge solutions and policy making strategies to ensure long-lasting, intuitive, and accessible handwashing facilities (and behaviors) in selected communities.

Purpose and targets

The purpose of the behavior change program is – together with local Laos communities – to develop cheap and scalable nudge solutions to ensure overall public health and reduce the spread of infections and viruses amongst children and families. More specifically, developing solutions facilitating hand washing with soap in private households and public areas such as local restaurants. The program is designed to educate and empower local ambassadors to help drive long term impact and results across Lao regions.

The assignment and approach

To reach specific targets of empowering local communities to maintain long-lasting behavior change within handwashing with soap, we did observations, and used data to map everyday habits of children and parents in private households and public restaurants. Based on our discoveries, we co-created various nudge solutions and intuitive hand washing facility-prototypes with members of local Lao communities. The prototypes were for rapid implementation to document measurable effects and impact at scale.


The co-created prototypes for nudging handwashing with soap behavior in public areas, including in restaurants, have been tested in x different locations, and demonstrate a potential for increasing handwashing behaviour by 44 percentage points. UNICEF and the Government of Lao PDR are now looking into the potential for financing and testing the co-created design solutions on a greater scale.