What is BI? Video Transcript
We know from our own lives that sometimes we struggle to do what is best for us, despite our good intentions. Whether it is exercising more, eating healthily or saving enough for retirement. This has important implications for public policy. Behavioural insights help us to understand how people actually make decisions in everyday life. And often this does not reflect the purely rational, self-interested decision makers described in standard economic textbooks.
In other words, we’re human. We have limited attention and self-control and are heavily influenced by what others do. This growing field of research also demonstrates that subtle changes to the way that decisions are framed can have big impacts on how people respond to them. So the context and details really matter.
There are now many governments around the world applying behavioural insights to improve the design and implementation of public policy including the US, UK, Canada, France, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.
The UK Government established a dedicated behavioural insights team often referred to as the nudge unit in 2010. In 2012 the NSW Government established a partnership with the UK BIT and became the first government in Australia to create a centrally staffed and funded BI unit.
So what does this look like in practice?
In NSW this has often involved simplifying processes, removing unnecessary steps and making services more users friendly. More specifically, behavioural interventions have included things like:
- rewarding desired behaviours through incentives, for example, to encourage patients to support their local hospital
- highlighting social norms to inform people to most others pay their taxes and fines on time
- using commitment devices to help injured employees in their return to work
- and providing personalised feedback to encourage people to become more energy efficient
While appearing simple these changes often result in significantly improved outcomes for citizens and government.
In order to design these interventions we try to understand government services and policies from the perspectives of end users and front line workers. This involves spending time with hospital staff and patients for example, and asking them about their experiences and ideas for improving services.
We then test and trial our interventions. Wherever possible we use randomised controlled trials – RCTs – to understand what works. This enables us to compare the effectiveness of an intervention against what would have happened if we changed nothing by having a control group and different trial groups.
So while not a silver bullet, behavioural insights provides useful new tools, evidence and frameworks for policy makers, which can be used to enhance traditional policy levers and delivery systems. And importantly many of these interventions are relatively simple and cheap to implement.
For more information on behavioural insights in NSW visit our website http://bi.dpc.nsw.gov.au/