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Study Overview

The effect of peer-to-peer information on potential migrants in West Africa
Study is 3ie funded:
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Last Update Date:
Study Status:
In Development

In recent years, migration has been on the forefront of the global policy agenda. Irregular migration from Africa to Europe in particular has received increasing attention given the dramatic situation of migrants stuck in Libya, attempting to cross the Mediterranean or falling victim to forced labor in destination countries. To respond to the crisis, many organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have increasingly implemented a series of information campaigns to raise awareness of the risks of irregular migration and promote safer alternatives. One such campaign is the Migrants as Messengers (MaM), which seeks to raise awareness by supporting returned migrants to share their testimonies through a peer-to-peer approach in seven West African countries. There is, however, limited evidence of the impact of information campaigns on potential migrants’ intentions and behavior. The main objective of the planned studies is to assess the effect of peer-to-peer awareness raising activities about migration on the attitudes, knowledge, perceptions, intentions and behavior of young potential ‘irregular’ migrants in communities with high emigration rates. We propose a series of cluster randomized controlled trials.

Registration Citation:
Additional Keywords:
Irregular migration, information campaigns, peer-to-peer, West Africa
Secondary ID Number(s):
PM.0016 (provided by IOM)

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Jasper Tjaden
University of Potsdam
Name of Second PI:
Felix Ndashimye

Study Sponsor

Netherland's Ministry for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
Study Sponsor Location:

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Global Migration Data Analysis Center

Intervention Overview


The intervention consists of a host of activities with the aim to share information about irregular migration, opportunities at home and legal pathways. Migrants that have voluntarily returned to their countries are the main messenger of the campaign. Returning migrants record video testimonies of their peers which are then distributed through different channels. In addition to the dissemination of video material, the campaign features direct communication between returnees and potential migrants through live events and discussion fora.

The impact evaluation component focusses on a particular type of activities planned as part of the MAM2 campaign. These could be characterized loosely as “townhall” events that feature movie and theatre elements as well as face-to-face discussions among peers, authored/created and implemented by returned migrants. Townhalls are village or neighborhood meetings ranging from 10-100 participants. Participation in the events is voluntary and participation is promoted at the community through local leaders and announcements upon arrival of the project team in the particular village or enumeration area. At the meetings, video testimonials from returning migrants are screened and returning migrants engage with the attendees in a live and face-to-face conversation about irregular migration. Events last approximately 2 hours. The project team is currently assessing the feasibility of adding theatre play elements to the intervention across all intervention areas as well as “caravan” type events.

Participation in the event is intended to increase awareness of the risks associated with irregular migration and promote a discussion on local opportunities and legal pathways. For more details on the type of event, see previous impact evaluation studies conducted in Senegal and Guinea (Dunsch et al. 2019; Tjaden & Dunsch 2020, Bia-Zafinikamia et al. 2020).

Theory of Change:

The objective of MaM is to “enable youth to make informed migration related decisions in target countries in West Africa.” While providing access to information is straight-forward, facilitating informed decisions of migrants requires assumptions about behavior change.  Social and behavioral change communication relies on a range of theories, including rational-choice theories, and the theory of intended behavior.

Rational Choice Theories propose that individuals make a deliberate, conscious cost-benefit calculation weighing the pros and cons of different behavioral options (Massey et al. 1993; Piguet 2013). From this perspective, information campaigns attempt to correct missing or biased information with the view to allow for balanced decisions. Shortcomings of this theory are that it assumes that migrants are individual, rational decision makers with complete information about the costs, benefits and impact of their actions. The theory of planned behavior, on the other hand, assumes that humans are rational and make systematic use of available information. However, the theory departs from the benefit maximization model by incorporating the role of subjective norms and perceived behavioral control into the decision-making model. Applied to migration, the theory suggests that social norms and social pressures contribute to personal intentions.

The brief review of general behavioral change theories suggests that the decision to migrate depends on a myriad of factors that operate at different levels: the individual migrant, the immediate social network, and the community at large. As a result, the planned studies will focus on the individual potential migrant as the main unit of analysis and inference. In addition, interviews will be conducted with the household head to gather context information and the level of social network influence.


Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Type of Organization:

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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End Date:
Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Other (not Listed) Method:

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

The planned studies aim to establish a causal relationship between the peer-to-peer awareness raising intervention led by returned migrants and the knowledge, perceptions, intentions and behavior related to irregular migration among youth in communities with high emigration rates. We propose a series of cluster randomized control trials (cRCT) to detect effects of the described interventions. cRCTs randomly assign groups (e.g. enumeration areas, villages, districts etc.) to be part of MAM2 activities or not (control group).

There are two main reasons why cRCTs are the best approach in the study context: First, the described intervention operates at the group level. The audience participates in treatment activities in groups. Invitations to participate in MAM2 activities are disseminated widely in each individual community. Second, there are practical difficulties in randomizing at individual level: Individual randomization increases the risk of bias. Given that interventions take place in small communities with strong social ties, control group members may attend treatment events (i.e. “contamination”) or treatment members will tell control group members about the events (“spillover”).

The randomization will be done at the smallest geographical or administrative level. The unit of inference will be the individual. In the context of West Africa this smaller geographical area (cluster) will be the enumeration area (EA). The design bears similarity with the standard “encouragement design” with expected one-sided non-compliance. This means that EAs will be randomly allocated to either receive the treatment or not. In treatment EAs, participation in the event is promoted at the EA level and sampled households that take part in the impact evaluation are further encouraged to attend the event through text message reminders or other context-adapted encouragement methods.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

The following outcomes will be used to measure key effects of the MAM information campaign activities on intended audiences:

1. Knowledge about (irregular) migration

  • Costs of “irregular” migration
  • Duration of “irregular” migration
  • Number of missing migrants
  • Expected income at destination
  • Countries to pass through on the way to desired destination
  • Legal requirement for legal migration
  • Legal context in destination country

2. Perceptions related to irregular migration

  • Subjective (self-perceived) level of knowledge
  • Perception of uncertainty of available information
  • Perception of returnees
  • Risks associated with the journey and at destination (abstract and individual)
  • Alternatives to irregular migration
  • Opportunities at home

3. Migration intentions and behavior

  • Intention to migrate regularly and irregularly
  • Perceived intentions among peers
  • Perceived pressure to migrate
  • Information seeking behavior
  • Migration preparations: applying for visa, saving money, talking to friends abroad, talking to smugglers
  • School dropout
  • Migration behavior (i.e. actual migration, regional migration)
Unit of Analysis:
The unit of analysis is the individual--potential migrants aged between 17 and 30.

The four impact evaluations will be guided by four hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Information campaigns are not more or less effective in urban versus rural areas. In some countries, many migrants first move from rural to urban areas before leaving the country. Rural populations have contacts abroad and receive information and remittances from family members and friends that have migrated in the past. This could suggest that rural populations are not necessarily less informed about migration than urban populations. In terms of pressure to migrate, it is also not obvious that the living situation in urban areas is better than the one in rural areas given that potential migrants in cities may be less able to rely on support of their families and have to face increased living costs.

Hypothesis 2: Community norms condition individual migration decisions, yet, parents are not a large driver for potential migrants. Communities, families, and broader social norms are thought to have an impact on potential migrants, yet, the individual migrant him- or herself makes the decision to migrate irregularly. The proposed theory of change and reviewed underlying theories of behavioural change emphasize the role of the context that potential migrants are operating in. Empirically, it remains unclear how information campaigns can consider actors at various levels.

Hypothesis 3: A change in perception and knowledge regarding irregular migration is associated with a reduction in irregular migration movements. Based on available theories of social and behavioural change communication, intentions are a strong predictor of actual behaviour. While it may be challenging to measure migration behavior during the course of the studies, we will take advantage of the household-level interviews to determine whether and how any household member migrated.

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Enumeration areas
Number of Clusters in Sample:
Number of Individuals in Sample:
9,000 (per country)
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Outcomes Data

The data will be collected through a household survey
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

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Preliminary Report:
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Study Stopped