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Pathfinder Launches Innovative Contraception Programs

Nearly $10 million will support a new approach to address biases and social norms that create barriers to contraception use

JANUARY 11, BOSTON, MA—Pathfinder International is pleased to announce the award of two new grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that have the potential to change how donors and implementers approach contraceptive access programs. The two projects, totaling nearly $10 million, will advance access to a full range of contraception, especially for adolescents and youth, through adaptive and innovative approaches.

In developing countries, more than half of all women of reproductive age want to avoid pregnancy, yet 225 million women are not using an effective method of contraception.  Of the estimated 38 million sexually active adolescents in these regions, 23 million have an unmet need for modern contraception.

For these millions of women, social norms, behaviors, and attitudestheir own, those of their families, partners, friends, and communities and those of service providerscreate barriers to accessing contraception, especially for young women. Through the three-year, $2.7 million Beyond Bias project, Pathfinder and our partners will address the different types of provider biases and behaviors that translateadvertently or inadvertentlyinto barriers for youth who want access to high quality contraceptive counseling and services. Pathfinder will partner with Camber Collective, YLabs, and The Center for Effective Global Action’s Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health Initiative and build on ongoing Pathfinder projects in Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and Pakistan to implement an innovative four-phase approach to gather insights, generate and test solutions, and support adaptation and scale up. In Pakistan and Tanzania, we will also engage with local partners, Aga Khan Health Services in Tanzania and Greenstar in Pakistan, for solution development and testing in the private sector.

The four-year, $7 million Resolve project will advance transformative interventions to expand use of modern contraception among women who do not wish to become pregnant. Pathfinder is excited to partner with Ideas42, Camber Collective, and ICRW to build on our ongoing work in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh to find adaptive and disruptive change in family planning program design. The name expresses our main objective to develop a process to generate innovative solutions to resolve behavioral barriers and develop women’s resolve to use contraception to avoid unintended pregnancy.

“For more than 30 years, Pathfinder has been at the forefront of programming to address the unique sexual and reproductive health needs and interests of young people, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to tackle one of the most persistent barriers young people face,” said Caroline Crosbie, Interim CEO of Pathfinder. “People don’t make choices about their reproductive health in a vacuum.  Their providers, families, society, gender norms, religion, and other factors all play a role.  As a global community, we need to be looking how all these factors come into play and design programs that acknowledge and account for these dynamics.”


Pathfinder International is driven by the conviction that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide whether and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to live the lives they choose. Since 1957, we have partnered with local governments, communities and health systems in the developing world to remove barriers to critical sexual and reproductive health services. Together, we expand access to contraception, promote healthy pregnancies, save mothers’ lives, and stop the spread of new HIV infections, wherever the need is most urgent. Our work ensures millions of women, men, and young people are able to choose their own paths forward.

The Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) is a hub for research on global development. We design and test solutions for the problems of poverty, generating actionable evidence for decision-makers. Our West Coast-based network of over 70 academic affiliates uses rigorous field trials, behavioral experiments, and tools from data science to measure and maximize the impacts of economic development programs throughout the world. Our Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health Initiative (BERI), launched in 2013 with support from the Hewlett Foundation, integrates approaches from development economics and psychology to improve reproductive outcomes for girls and women in developing countries.

Camber Collective is a strategy consulting firm that helps its clients to achieve high performance against financial and mission-related goals. They have extensive experience supporting foundations and nonprofits in customer insights, demand analysis, strategy development, and behavior change innovation. Their clients include the world’s leading philanthropies, multi- and bi-laterals, NGOs, and mission driven companies.  Camber works in 50+ countries in global health, financial inclusion, philanthropic effectiveness, and healthy communities.

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a nonprofit global research organization with a mission to empower women and girls, advance gender equality and fight poverty globally. For forty years and through more than 600 projects, ICRW has worked with partners in more than 70 countries to conduct empirical research, build technical capacity, and advocate for evidence-based, practical ways to improve policies and programs.

ideas42’s mission is to use behavioral science to innovate and drive social change with the goal of improving millions of lives. ideas42 applies behavioral insights to address the toughest global challenges and creates solutions that can be scaled up for the greatest impact. Through a proven methodology, DDDT, ideas42 identifies the subtle but important contextual details that can have a disproportionate impact on outcomes, and designs innovative, impactful solutions to the most difficult behavioral challenges. ideas42 currently works in projects across 20 countries and has successfully implemented rapid experimentation of behavioral designs intended to improve socially beneficial outcomes worldwide, with 57 randomized controlled trials and three quasi-experimental designs.

YLabs (Youth Development Labs) is a non-profit organization that aims to improve health and livelihoods among disadvantaged youth (10-24 years). They help governments and local organizations design, evaluate and scale new ways to improve young peoples’ health and economic futures. YLabs’ team of physicians, designers, economists, public health professionals and educators bring a unique mix of human-centered design, economic and health outcome evaluation, adolescent health, and implementation know-how to the global problems facing youth.

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