Field Notes

People, Pandemics & Present Bias

 “There are no walls you can build high enough to keep out the flu virus or other pathogens.”


Dr Jonathan Quick, author of ‘The End of Epidemics’ talked to Mike about his vast experiences in global health, his views on the importance of trust and understanding individual behaviour in an epidemic.


If you’ve missed this interview or others from The Stitch, our regular newsletter, you can find the back catalogue in our SoundCloud Channel and subscribe here.



Our Story

At Common Thread we ‘do’ behavioural science for global public health.


We spent decades working and living all over the world with international organizations on the frontlines of global development and public health. We first met in Pakistan, and spent the next five years working together as part of the global polio eradication team.


On the margins of many (many!) conference calls, grueling missions and countless cups of coffee, we started imagining a ‘different way’ to influence change. Faster, easier, creative, with more affordable solutions that would put people and their stories at the centre.


By 2017, our thinking felt more than wishful, it felt urgent. We quit our jobs at the United Nations, and moved our families and our lives across the world. By Autumn, Common Thread had a logo, a website, and our first client.


Today, Common Thread is an emerging leader in behavioural science for global public health. We count the world’s most important organizations as partners and clients.


Behaviour Change is Hard.


That’s why we blend the best mix of design with research, anthropology with public health expertise, creativity with data. We build unique teams for each project who combine global best practice and local context.


Then we design solutions to support people on a unique journey to change that’s authentic, sustainable, and sometimes, even fun.


Our teams live and work all over the world, connected by our shared values, extensive experience, sense of humour - and a good internet connection.


We’re growing, learning, and always trying to do things better than we did them before. We’re on our own journey to change, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride.


Mike and Sherine



Hey Siri, How Do I Feel?

How could Common Thread and other global public health organisations use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in communities? And is empathy a purely human trait, or can it be engineered to produce better health outcomes than the human equivalent?  


Giving us a glimpse into the utopian and dystopian potential for AI in global health, Johanna Skilling of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a global PR and MarCom’s organisation, talked us through what happens when technology evolves to reinforce or replace human interactions in healthcare.


Read the full piece on Common Thread’s channel on



 Now That's Magic!

Now That's Magic!

Image shows: Sherine meeting Rory Sutherland, the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, and co-founder of a behavioural science practice within the agency, at his book launch in Bucharest.


In his new book, Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense, Sutherland says an over reliance on data leaves no room for emotion, which is what really drives us.


As we like to do with all new thinking at Common Thread, we considered how the ad man’s views could be applied in global public health.


We discussed how ‘making room for magic’ could help stop disease in the most challenging contexts, like Ebola-affected DRC and polio-affected Pakistan. It’s conversations like these that bring the magic to our work too.


In case you missed them, here are Rory Sutherland’s 10 rules of alchemy including, “Don’t design for the average person… but for the extreme”.  



 Polar Bears on melting ice. Credit: NOAA

Climate Change Needs Behaviour Change

In public health, the impact of climate change on disease and the health of the most vulnerable is undeniable.   


So why are we hardwired to ignore global warming? And what would make us more likely to believe the urgency and join forces to act for change? 


Mike talked to Kevin Green, Head of The Center for Behavior & the Environment at Rare, who believes the solution to the challenge of our lifetime is - behavioural science.  




A Tajik Video Diary

We left five cameras with five adolescents living in areas with high rates of stunting across Tajikistan. These video diaries provided an invaluable inside look into shopping practices, cooking, and their family lives and meals. The short edit below captures the spirit of their amazing work. We are constantly trying to gain new insights on tough issues in hard-to-reach places.






 What We're Talking About

What We're Talking About

There’s a lot getting us excited at the moment including:

  • The recent Joker movie. Whether you’re a fan or not (and we’re staying neutral), anyone who can get their audience to root for the devil has nailed the art of empathetic story telling. Maybe Todd Philips teamed up with these guys on the writing. OK, probably not. But they sound amazing.


  • Mike’s move to Dublin, Ireland. We’re feeling really optimistic about the new opportunities that a new base in Ireland will bring to Common Thread and our network – old and new. If you’re in the area and want to to say hello over a cup of Barry’s Tea - or a pint of Guinness, we’d love to hear from you. Email us!


  • Our upcoming birthday! Common Thread is about to turn 2. We are walking, talking, and almost getting some decent sleep (we’re hopeful 3 is the magic number). Any suggestions on how we should celebrate entrepreneurial toddlerhood? Drop us a line.


  • Join in the conversation, find us on Twitter.


 Image of SBCC Summit Details

Marra-kech us there

And with that horrendous pun, we’re happy to say we’re confirmed! Really excited to take a few days out to join the world’s social and behaviour change community at the SBCC Summit in Marrakech, Morocco next year.


At the 2018 conference in Bali we talked behavioural surveillance, organized a super-classy off-site house party, while absorbing as much as we could from all the great experiences being shared by familiar and new faces.


We’ve got a few exciting plans for Marrakech, so watch this space.   And, if you’re going too, get in touch!  We’d love to connect.



The Stitch