We are behavioural
If behaviour connects us, it can be what protects us.
We humans are a complex bunch. Fickle. Erratic. Contradictory. Emotional. Some call these obstacles. At Common Thread, we call them catalysts. And once they’re understood, a few small, careful nudges can move people to positive change. From disease to inequality to climate change. Universal and interconnected problems need solutions that reflect the social and cultural complexity that we all live in.
What We Do
We bring the best of applied behavioural science, design thinking and anthropology to original and secondary research.
Through workshops, trainings, services and solutions, we seek to elevate the moments that matter with and for our clients.
Practical, evidence based and optimised to consider the entire ecosystem of human behaviour.
Context, not content. We support people to explain and reveal their challenges in their own words, to add a human face to graphs and data points. Stories matter.
We listen to all voices and perspectives
Every perspective deserves to be heard so we seek out all voices that play a role in behaviour change. Policymakers and providers, advocates and obstructers, the refusers and early adopters.
We understand the drivers of behavioural change
Uncovering the insights that prove to be the real levers of change. That’s our focus. When we reveal and leverage the motivators of human behaviour, better health is possible.
We unite global science with local context
Our approach fuses the best of design, behavioural science, marketing, public health and anthropology, while amplifying local voices and promoting community solutions.
We design human-centred solutions
We design with people, not for them. From insights, we design and prototype solutions. We test, modify, and start again until they are solving the problems we set out to tackle together.
Behavioural design has come a long way.
Common Thread was born out of frustration. Sherine and Mike met while trying to eliminate Polio from Pakistan and immediately bonded over the need to put people, and their actual needs and context at the centre of public health. Five years, a few outbreaks, the births of four children, and a few dozen countries later, we made the leap. Driven by a desire to do great work, with great people, today Common Thread is an emerging leader in behavioral science for global public health. We count the world’s most important organizations as partners, clients and friends.
We want to know what moves you.
SHERINE GUIRGUIS is our Director and lead strategist. Sherine looks for the people behind the data. She’s been creating powerful narratives with data for 20 years, from leading large-scale behaviour change strategies to responding to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, ridding the world of polio, and responding to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. Working with thousands of local women to eliminate Polio from India in 2011 sparked her passion to help understand and improve gender dynamics in public health. Sherine has held senior behaviour change positions with UNICEF and is widely published in public health and social and behaviour change.
Sherine has a MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a MA in International Development and Economics from Johns Hopkins University. She is a guest lecturer at New York University’s (NYU’s) School of Global Public Health and sits on a number of Technical Advisory Groups, including for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and PATH. Sherine speaks Arabic, and loves good food and beautiful design in all its forms. She is a mom to busy twin toddlers, and hopes to one day reclaim her hobbies, which include horseback riding and diving. Sherine lives in Barbados.
MICHAEL COLEMAN is our Director and lead storyteller. Finding and creating space for community voices gets Mike going. He’s always been connecting people and information, from his senior communications posts with UN agencies in Angola, Pakistan, and Viet Nam, to social development, documentary production and journalism in Honduras, Sri Lanka, Canada and Poland. Years spent working to eradicate polio – and being part of the team that managed the attacks on health workers in Pakistan – taught him to waste no time getting to the root of a problem.
Michael is part of a USAID and Gates initiated Community of Practice called Design for Health. Michael has facilitated Design for Health sessions, and has studied Service Design with Marc Stickdorn, a global leader in the field, Michael has a MA in Political Communications from Goldsmiths at the University of London. He has been a guest lecturer at NYU’s School of Global Public Health and a lead trainer for the US Center for Disease Control’s STOP Polio Programme. He is based in Ireland and speaks intermediate French and Spanish.
Felicity keeps us focused on people. With a background in public health, health systems strengthening, and community engagement, Felicity makes sure we are asking ourselves, communities, and clients the right questions for creative solutions.
Felicity oversees research and accounts at Common Thread, and brings a people-centered approach to both. Before joining Common Thread, Felicity worked for Cambridge Economic Policy Associates, the WHO in Geneva and the Philippines, UNICEF in South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka), and for national and sub-national governments, and donors.
Felicity has lived and worked in South Africa, the Philippines, the UK, Switzerland, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ghana, and many more countries. She holds a Postgraduate Degree in Public Health from the University of York and a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Development Studies from the University of Sussex. Felicity is based in the UK.
In her spare time she is a wanderer – loving mountain climbing or any excuse to escape London’s high rises. She paints and loves her Collie dog back in Yorkshire.
Olivia loves to help others thrive. As the People and Project Manager at Common Thread, Olivia uses her passion for connecting with others and wellbeing to nurture our company culture and make sure everyone has what they need to do great work. Before joining Common Thread, Olivia was the Managing Director for Impact Hub Phnom Penh in Cambodia, working with partners such as UNDP, USAID, and Oxfam to train and empower the next generation of local changemakers and entrepreneurs. Olivia has also consulted on a range of projects ranging from design research to training for organisations around the world such as 17 Triggers, Swiss EP, Youth Business International, and Frontier Labs Asia. In her spare time, you can find her running workshops on wellbeing, making embroidery, and doing karaoke.
Lydia loves asking why. Whether buried in dataset or chatting with a couple about their children’s health, Lydia is constantly trying to understand how context shapes people’s. decisions. An epidemiologist by training and behavioural designer by nature, she has spent most of her career designing and evaluating health programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. After receiving her Master’s in Public Health at the University of Cape Town, Lydia worked with ideas42, designing reproductive health programming in Senegal, studying intimate partner violence prevention strategies in India, and understanding how to build empathy between health providers and their clients in Zambia.
Lydia is also an honorary lecturer at the University of Zambia School of Public Health. Otherwise you can find her outdoors—tending her (slowly) budding vegetable garden, trying not to be thrown off her horses, or deftly avoiding crocodiles on the Zambezi river.
Marc brings people together. He co-creates delightful experiences that respond to real problems. He is constantly amazed by how a deep understanding of people can inspire groups to re-design complex systems. He has a Ph.D. in literary and cultural studies from Duke University. He has published scholarly articles, literary translations, original poems, and he was awarded a Digital Humanities grant from the US National Endowment for the Humanities for his project on creative tele-collaboration in the university classroom. He has worked in the US, France, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Mexico. He speaks English, French, and Spanish. He has taught at University of Miami, State University of New York, Cornell University, and Cornell Weill School of Medicine. He loves drawing, paper-sculpting, and biking.
Jim makes us look good. He blends experience in a wide cross-section of design – from print and UX & UI visual design to 2D animations, illustration and photography – with an extensive history of working with NGOs and international development and environmental agencies. He has a Diploma of Arts (Graphic Arts) from RMIT University and a Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations) from Deakin University. In his spare time, Jim pretends he’s a folk musician, and wears plaid shirts. He also likes dragging a stupidly heavy camera up mountains, and swimming underwater as often as possible.
Katrina brings our ideas to life. With over 12 years of international experience directing art projects, creating brands, and designing artwork, Katrina is part of Common Thread’s growing design team.
Katrina is a believer in form and function and loves to combine logic and design. She is a big fan of empty spaces and good contrast and brings this style to Common Thread. She has a Master’s degree in Roman-German Philology* from Lomonosov Moscow State University and studied Visual Communications at the British Higher School of Design and Art in Moscow.
In her spare time Katrina loves drawing people, on canvas or digitally, and is working on her own series of illustrations. She loves curling up with a good book of fiction and a glass of wine.
*Philology is the study of language in oral and literary history.
Gael brings clarity. The relationship between people, design and the interconnectivity of the systems that make the world go round give Gael energy. She has worked in design, research and strategy for commercial and social projects but is most driven when people are put at the heart of the solution.
Before joining Common Thread her work was centred on community engagement in urban design; mapping urban ecology, investigating service accessibility and putting local voices in the development process. She is excited to apply design thinking to global public health.
One of her proudest achievements is climbing Kilimanjaro. Originally from Scotland, she currently resides in Edinburgh where she enjoys cycling, reading and trying to grow herbs in her tiny garden.
Our storyteller. Regina helps us tell the story of people’s lives, and why they do the things they do. She translates complex scientific jargon into digestible and engaging language for targeted audiences. She fosters our Company Value to ‘be simple’, making our work actionable, easy-to-use and understandable. Regina spent the last four years studying people and places at the University of California, Berkeley, emerging with Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Design & American Social and Cultural Landscapes. She uses words, media, and design to tell powerful narratives. She is an amateur chess player and avid collector of street furniture.
Samyuktha brings form to the function. Her intuitive visual design chops bring elegance and energy to the products we build. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication Design from MIT Institute of Design. Her interest towards global public health piqued when she worked on a hand-washing curriculum for rural and semi-urban schools of Ethiopia as a part of her thesis.
Sam lives in Bangalore where she can be found learning to play the violin– her latest musical endeavour.
Phuthehi brings a beginner’s mindset. His passion lies in creating social impact environments and finding sustainable solutions to human problems. He is a generalist at heart with a wealth of experience ranging from retail, sustainable agriculture, which eventually led him to design-led thinking. He holds a Master’s degree in International Tax Law from the University of Cape Town. Prior to joining Common Thread, Phuthehi worked as a Programme Lead at the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town (UCT d-school). His role involved conceptualising, designing, and developing Design Thinking Programmes, as well as managing and leading the delivery of Design Thinking Projects. Phuthehi loves nature and adventure – being in the forest and climbing mountains. He finds peace when he is by the ocean and never gets tired of chasing sunsets. He always has his camera with him and is drawn to capturing beautiful landscapes.
Frances applies science to behaviour. Having spent the latter half of her career working in behavioural science, Frances has helped NGOs, charities, and private & public sector clients solve tough policy challenges. Whilst her specialism is organisational behaviour, she has applied behavioural science to a range of policy areas, including home affairs, environmental protection, social care, education and health. In the former half of her career, she was a social worker, using strengths-based approaches to help people desist from crime.
Frances holds a MSc in Organisational Psychology (University of London), a Master of Social Work (Flinders University) and a Bachelor of Psychological Science (University of Adelaide). She is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ali keeps us on track. Over 11 years, Ali has led 30 qualitative and quantitative studies and monitored systems and work in health, agriculture, education, skills development, energy and financial services sectors. Ali’s focus on research, monitoring, project management and private sector development has contributed to organisations such as UNICEF, UNDP, Jhpiego, MSI and Cardno, as well as projects funded by development agencies like USAID, DFAT, WHH and BMGF. In addition, Ali is an avid sportsman, a trained socio-economic development expert and filmmaker, with success as a radio jockey, stage actor and financial economist, all reflective of the diversity in thought and skills he brings to the team.
Jay knows public health. A medical doctor with a background in infectious diseases, Jay has worked in international public health for more than 15 years, from South Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone to megacities in India. Jay has a deep understanding of the public health multilateral system and was the technical lead for the UK government investments in the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and malaria.
In her spare time Jay likes to pretend she is a writer although most ideas seem to sound way better in her head than they do on paper. She also loves to swim and is learning to appreciate the joys of cold water swimming… brrr!
Dan designs beyond nudges. He is passionate about human behavior and behavior change for good, understanding not only the what and the how, but mainly the why’s that drive our behavior.
He is an international development professional with 10 years of experience in the Global South, mostly in Latin America and the MENA region. He holds an MPA in Development from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and a BA in Economics from the University of Chile.
Dan has worked with ideas42, CollaborateUp, Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors’ Challenge, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Open Government Partnership Local, and The Earth Institute, in a wide array of projects involving behavior change, innovation and social impact; in the fields of financial inclusion and economic empowerment, democracy and governance, climate change, and mental health.
In his spare time, Dan goes on long bike rides in nature, rewatches Chef’s Table, and agonizes if hasn’t read Sunday’s newspaper properly.
Michelle explores with intention. As a research designer and facilitator, she loves helping teams design for justice and equity. With over 15 years experience in design, digital, and post-production, her multidisciplinary background enables her to find unique ways to tell stories and connect the dots.
She holds a BA in Interaction Design and recieved training in human-centred design from Hyper Island, Stockholm’s innovation school, where she first worked with UNICEF. Her long list of clients includes MUJI, Deloitte, and adidas.
Michelle spends her free time reading, hiking, and flipping through streaming services in vain.
Azza curates experiences. As a creative facilitator, artist, and social change-maker, Azza has a talent for fostering moments that spark inspiration, connection and action.
She is currently the Head of Community Engagement at African Crossroads, a community of thinkers and doers at Hivos. Before that, she was the Creative Director at Statement Films, an American production company focused on the development, production and financing of film and television by African women filmmakers and content creators.
Azza spent ten years living in New York City, where she received an MA in Art and Public Policy from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a BA in Film & Media Studies from Hunter College. She is a former Critical Collaborations Fellow, a three-year fellowship at NYU that investigates the relationship between creativity and social change, engaging faculty members and local artists with practitioners based in six different continents.
Azza is fluent in English, French and Arabic and is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Cape Town, South Africa
Caroline exudes empathy. Fascinated by the intersection of health and human behavior, she has built a colorful career in public health seeking to understand health outcomes through the way people live, think, and act.
Since her big move from Boston to Cape Town in 2016 to pursue her MPH at the University of Cape Town, Caroline has contributed to a number of projects that explore health topics through the lens of social and behavior change. Her experience researching behaviours that fuel tuberculosis transmission, perceptions around HPV vaccination, climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, and leveraging user insights to design new family planning methods has cemented her belief that it’s the people closest to the problem that hold the the most valuable insight for solutions.
When Caroline isn’t bouncing between the US and South Africa, you’ll find her hiking in the mountains, enjoying a book on the beach, boxing, biking or catching up with friends and family.
Ali understands choices. Particularly, how people make them. A behavioral scientist and economist with a decade of experience, he’s passionate about investigating people’s behavior and decision-making in contexts of scarcity.
After completing a PhD in Behavioral Science at Warwick Business School, Ali helped establish the first non-governmental “nudge” unit in the Arab region. A former VP at Nudge Lebanon, Ali helped many institutions apply behavioral insights to their policy challenges, including UNICEF, UNDP, ESCWA, Save the Children, USAID and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. At Nudge, he helped promote a culture of experimentation and evidence-based policymaking in the Arab region – training and upskilling several public and private organizations in behavioral science, nudging and impact evaluation.
In his spare time, Ali loves to hike, scuba dive, cook and take care of his garden.
Chelsea unites science and storytelling. As a behavioural scientist and health communications strategist, Chelsea uses her talents in language and media to distill complex academic research, so that important messages can reach more people. She holds an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health and a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her research has been published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and the American Journal of Health Education. She speaks English, French, and Spanish, and lives in Marseille, France, where she operates a public health consulting agency and teaches part-time at Aix-Marseille Université
Caroline catalyzes. A pragmatic optimist who’s always thinking big picture, Caroline brings years of experience as a Social and Behavioural Scientist and Global Health Practitioner to help us unravel complex social challenges. Caroline boasts extensive leadership experience in human-centered design, community-based participatory methods, health systems strengthening, program design and implementation, mixed-methods research, monitoring and evaluation, project management, and stakeholder engagement.
Singapore, Republic of Singapore
Jumana brings behavioural science to life. She uses evidence-based strategies to analyse and solve complex behavioural issues at all socio-ecological levels. Her research expertise in translation and implementation science helps her apply theoretical frameworks to real-life challenges. She’s brought her skills in exploratory and participatory action research, intervention development, strategic thinking, and workshop facilitation to help people break habits, working with the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative to reduce e-cigarette usage among adolescents and co-creating an incentive-based smoking-cessation model for a blockchain-driven startup.
Jumana holds a BS in Neuroscience from Colby College and a MPH from Harvard University. She is currently based in Singapore, where she is helping the Ministry of Health of Singapore validate and implement an e-counseling platform while pursuing a PhD in Health Psychology at the National University of Singapore. Her thesis focuses on the development and validation of a risk communication tool to motivate preventative behaviour for Type 2 Diabetes
Martin connects us. To public health, to big data, and to the service needs of communities. A medical doctor, health innovation enthusiast, and entrepreneur with unwavering passion and enthusiasm to work on healthcare solutions that set new trends and disrupt the status quo, Martin has over five years of experience using digital health and mobile technology platforms to build feasible solutions that address barriers to accessing equitable and inclusive health care.
Martin has spent most of his career working on HIV/AIDS, at the crossroads of artificial intelligence, drones, big data, block chain and service design – with the ultimate goal of ensuring people get access to HIV drugs at the right time, no matter where they are.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Deeptha brings value through her values. Deeptha advocates for empathy, curiosity and fun in programme design—helping teams reframe daunting roadblocks into surmountable challenges. Her favourite part of her job is when she gets to support teams in identifying problems and testing solutions collaboratively, so that they feel empowered to solve their future challenges independently. Deeptha boasts a diverse background spanning academic research, mixed methods research, HCD research and strategy consulting, and has worked on several public health projects in HIV, injection safety, COVID-19 strategy and maternal health. She has worked with partners such as the Laos PDR Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Bank.
Kate considers herself a professional people-watcher. As a behavioral scientist, she obsesses over how healthy decisions can be made easier and more efficient. She spends her days thinking about health related-decision making and how inequality affects consumer choices, conducting research and teaching graduate-level courses in consumer psychology and marketing strategy. She completed her doctorate at Harvard Business School after spending several years as a management consultant at Bain & Company, so she brings along a bit of business savvy, too.
Kate’s idea of a perfect weekend is escaping to the mountains with her husband, two kids, and spunky poodle for long hikes fueled by chocolate bars.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Jon seeks community participation. Jon has focused his career on harnessing communications to help marginalised and vulnerable people. He has seen the positive impact that communication and community engagement can have to help people reduce their risks and promote positive behaviours. He is passionate about ensuring that the people caught up in crises have accurate information to make informed choices, that they are listened to, and that their voices and opinions influence the assistance they receive.
Jon has worked in over 15 countries over the last 18 years, specialising in South East Asia. Jon is an experienced facilitator and trainer. He’s worked with some of the world’s largest humanitarian organisations to improve how they engage with communities, enhance their accountability and increase programme impact. Most recently he has worked with UN agencies in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Syria and Turkey. Jon has published programme guides on disaster risk reduction and rumour management in humanitarian settings. Jon is a trained chef, who ran a successful pop-up restaurant in south London’s vibrant restaurant scene. He is currently based between Cambodia and Portugal.
We bring a network of world-class expertise from a range of disciplines to serve our clients and to bring a multi-dimensional perspective to everything we do.
Co-creation and Facilitation
Matter Group helps people work better together. Their global network of facilitators combine design thinking, visual communication, network science, and collaborative decision-making tools and techniques. With Matter Group, we can help teams make connections, design creative solutions, and build collective action towards change.
Harvard Opinion Research Programme (HORP)
Harvard Opinion Research Program assesses people’s attitudes to public health issues. They have designed and led over 300 public opinion surveys on health and social policy in nearly 30 countries. Common Thread and HORP join forces to design rigorous, academic-quality research tools that lead to action in the field.
Babes Bolyai University, Department of Public Health
Located in Cluj, Babes-Bolyai is the largest and highest ranked University in Romania. The Department of Public Health (C-DPH) is an innovative research- focused program with a long and recognized track record in public health. It brings an interdisciplinary approach on Public Health tackling five major fields: Health Policy and Management, Social and Behavioral Health, Epidemiology, Statistics, and Environmental Health.
Their talented group of young researchers and practitioners have extensive regional and international experience in public health, quantitative and qualitative research, and motivational interviewing techniques.
Anthrologica embeds anthropology into global health to conduct people-focused research. Our collaborations with Anthrologica engage the participation of the very people in resource-scarce and emergency settings that health policies are meant to serve.
Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health and Security
The Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University helps decision makers around the world build long-lasting skills to prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies. Their rigorous public health research helps us develop strategies that lead to achievable and effective actions in the field.
The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics
The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics is dedicated to understanding human decision making using rigorous behavioral insights data. They help governments and organizations collect, interpret, apply and scale-up this knowledge. Together, we find innovative social and behavior change solutions based on cutting edge behavioral science.
Human Centered Design
A global research, innovation and design collective, GRID specializes in behavioral and human centered design (HCD) approaches to policy, program and product challenges. Our partnership with GRID allows us to leverage HCD approaches and creative problem solving to take on the toughest social and behavioral challenges.
Human Centered Design
Riley Group Inc.
Riley Group dives into understanding what matters most to customers, and helps design tailored consumer experience journeys that move people and motivate them to return. With Riley Group as a part of our team, we learn about CX design, management and measurement – and how to apply this art form to design more effective, enjoyable user-centered health services.
McCann Global Health
McCann Global Health’s marketing and communications expertise help drive demand for healthy behaviours, products and services around the world. The McCann Health family spans 35 countries, with extensive reach and presence in both sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Our partnership with these passionate communications professionals allows us to offer a cohesive, strategic approach to communication.
We Create Content
Hanoi-based content marketing agency We Create Content brings the perfect mix of international communications expertise, design excellence and local knowledge to clients across Asia. Their bespoke analytics, concepts, production and distribution help us tell real stories that make an impact.
Branding and Design
The design studio YummyColours defines objectives, approaches them strategically, targets the best idea, and identifies the right medium to tell each story creatively. Together with YummyColours, we tell the story the best way it can be told.
orange & teal
orange & teal is a team of development professionals aiming to make a meaningful contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. They use their expertise in skills development, social inclusion, migration, rule of law to design tangible and creative solutions to challenges that people in low- and middle-income countries and communities face.
Human Centered Design
Designist is a human-centered design agency based in Pakistan. When our work brings us to their corner of the globe, we call up the multidisciplinary team at Designist to help us conduct workshops and supplement our project work with their deep understanding of the context and dynamic, HCD practices.
We are always on the lookout for partners who can bring depth and new ideas to our work. Want to work with us?Let’s Connect ›
No cookie cutters here. We build custom tools and solutions for each project.
We can do great things together.