arrow_backEmergency WASH

T.40 Rewards and Incentives

Rewards and Incentives can be monetary, in-kind or intangible and are given to an audience when they carry out the desired behaviour. They aim to increase the perceived benefits of the desired behaviour or choice and thereby motivate and encourage its practice.

Faced with the choice between several options individuals consciously or unconsciously consider the costs and benefits of the options. For example, to choose handwashing with soap an individual might weigh up the monetary costs of soap and the time required for handwashing with the health benefits, health savings and social appreciation. This trade-off between costs and benefits may not be in favour of particular hygiene behaviours and hence acts as a barrier to it. In such a situation, providing other rewards may create important additional benefits and, as a result, the motivation to practise the behaviour. Rewards can be monetary (e.g. conditional cash-transfer), in-kind (e.g. soap) or less tangible (e.g. appreciation from others or a certificate from a Community Health Club, F.1). Some individuals who have never performed certain hygiene behaviours may have a biased estimate of its costs and benefits through lack of experience. In such cases, Rewards and Incentives can motivate them to adopt the behaviour, discover the true benefits and costs and revaluate their behaviour. If there are competing undesirable habits, rewards may compensate individuals for the additional cognitive effort required to start the new behaviour and overcome the old habit. Rewards can motivate short-term behaviour change or one-off behaviours (such as constructing infrastructure that would not be economically viable without a reward). Monetary or in-kind rewards may also be useful when engaging community mobilisers by e.g. offering small allowances, food, materials, equipment (such as rain jackets, t-shirts or bicycles) or training certificates.


Rewards and Incentives can be implemented in various contexts and response phases but should be used with care. Rewards can be implemented relatively quickly, but they can be costly (depending on the scale), require a systematic process to determine eligibility for rewards and a system to monitor who has received them.


  • Critically reflect whether monetary or material rewards are necessary and explore alternative sources of intrinsic motivation 

  • Ensure that all stakeholders and community members know about the reward system and nobody feels left out

  • Carefully design and test the magnitude of the reward – it should be neither too high nor too low.


  • Do not use rewards over the long term. Dependency on rewards can become a disincentive and undermine intrinsic motivation

  • Rewards should not prompt people to neglect other important activities

Practical Example

A behaviour change campaign to promote Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) was conducted in Harare, Zimbabwe. To motivate people to use and talk about SODIS every bottle bought in a SODIS bottle centre (created because of a lack of plastic bottle availability) was sold with a voucher with the buyer’s name written on it. The buyer was told to give the voucher to someone else who would hand in the voucher at the bottle centre. This entered the buyer in a lottery to win a food hamper. Hence, the more bottles someone bought and the more they talked about SODIS, the higher their chances of winning.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
+ +
+ +
+ +
Protracted Crisis
+ +
+ +
HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
Assessment, Analysis and Planning
Social and Behaviour Change
+ +
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
+ +
+ +
Older People
+ +
Persons with Disabilities
+ +
Local Leaders
+ +
Society as a whole
Application Level
Individual / Household
+ +
Community / Municipality
+ +
+ +
+ +
+ +
+ +


Definitions and an economic perspective on incentives

MasterClass (2021): Understanding Incentives in Economics: 5 Common Types of Economic Incentives

Case study from Zimbabwe using incentives to promote practice and talking about SODIS

Kraemer, S., Mosler, H. (2011): Effectiveness and Effects of Promotion Strategies for Behaviour Change: Solar Water Disinfection in Zimbabwe, Applied Psychology: An International Review. Vol. 61(3). Pages 392-414