SOCIAL AND BEHAVIOURAL INSIGHTS FOR ENHANCING PUBLIC POLICIES AND SERVICES
The 2011 book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman brought to the lay public the culmination of 40 years of behavioural economics research by Kahnemann and Amos Tversky that demonstrated how human beings make intuitive decisions that are frequently irrational. We now know that even subtle changes in the way that proposals are framed or contextualised may affect behaviour quite dramatically and that this relates to the social, cognitive and emotive nature of human decision-making.
Building on the massive popularity of Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, these works have transformed the way that we think about human behaviour and decision making.
The celebrated intertwining of economics and psychology is now making significant inroads into the policy arena where insights from the social and behavioural sciences are being translated worldwide into recommendations for the enhancement of public policies, programs and services.
In 2010, the UK Government set up a Behavioural Insights Team (BIT; now part of NESTA) with the stated aim of finding ‘innovative ways of encouraging, enabling and supporting people to make better choices for themselves.’ In 2012, the NSW Dept of Premier & Cabinet instituted Australia’s first behavioural insights team working in cooperation with UK BIT. In 2014, the Obama White House set up a cross-agency group of experts in applied behavioural science called the Social & Behavioural Sciences Team (SBST). This year, the Commonwealth Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet formed the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) unit. Yet again, another Behavioural Insights unit has just commenced work in the Victorian Government.
Behavioural insights were initially focused on informing policy by tweaks and nudges in areas such revenue collection, eg tolls, fines, taxes etc, as efficiency gains were more easily demonstrable in these circumstances. However, randomised evaluations of behavioural-type interventions are now becoming more common globally - positively impacting policies and services in areas as diverse as integrity and compliance, cost-effectiveness, operational streamlining, public affordability, access and uptake and program efficiency, productivity and impact.
US randomised trials have found that some behavioural interventions are easily embedded directly into the administration of a program at little cost, and its impact easily observed using existing PS data collection methodologies. There, even modest impacts have been found to return savings or benefits that far outweighed the expense of either the intervention or the evaluation.
Other trials have shown much smaller effects, and sometimes unintended negative consequences. Rather than being seen as a negative though, this highlights the benefits of rigorous trials. That is, in the words of the UK BIT, policy is beginning to ‘Test, Learn and Adapt.’
This ANU course will be convened by Dr Nicholas Biddle from CSRM with input from key practitioners working in Behavioural Insights. The course will introduce Public Sector Officers and Managers to the burgeoning field of behavioural economics, present policy insights being gleaned from global public sector initiatives in this field and offer Australian participants opportunities to confidentially discuss the potential application of behavioural insights within their own public sector work portfolios.
The course will cover the core findings from Behavioural Insights including happiness and new measures of wellbeing, loss aversion and framing, prospect theory (misconceptions of probability in the face of risk), hyperbolic discounting and other conflicts with our future selves. However, the course will also cover new advances including the work on scarcity and cognitive load, the conflicts between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and, in the words of Cass Sunstein ‘making predictions where behavioural findings cut in different directions … [and] understanding the line between nudging and manipulation.’
Participants will discuss the types of behavioural sciences-based evidence that can better inform policymaking, gain an appreciation of the current gaps in our knowledge, consider ethical issues and dilemmas with ‘libertarian paternalistic’ approaches and consider a range of case studies where nudges have been applied and their outcomes. Participants will also be introduced to tools and methodologies for objectively evaluating nudge outcomes including the use of randomised control trials (RCTs). The course will conclude with group discussions on some of these new insights could potentially be applied to the participant’s own portfolio areas.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Commonwealth and state public sector managers and executives involved in policy analysis, development or services delivery will be increasingly encouraged to improve policy or services using methodologies and insights from the social and behavioural sciences. Behavioural insights can inform all areas of government ranging from education, arts, health, aboriginal affairs, disability services, veterans affairs and social services to policing, taxation, science, environment, innovation, finance, agriculture, transport, communications, HECS loan collections and so on – in fact, applications abound in any area that involves human decision-making and choices of one sort or another.
Dr Nicholas Biddle
Nicholas is a leading Australian quantitative social scientist and Deputy Director of the ANU Centre for Social Research. He previously held a Senior Research Officer and Assistant Director position in the Methodology Division of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Nicholas has a long standing research interest in the field of behavioural insights and incorporating findings from other fields in economics. He has a focus on behavioural economics and how its insights could better inform existing policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, education, discrimination, welfare reform and wellbeing.
Can’t attend on this date?
Please contact ExecEd@anuenterprise.com.au to find out about future dates and schedules, as well as to enquire about training delivery at your own premises.
Are there any Group discounts?
Group discounts are available for bulk registrations of 3 or more participants.
What is the cancellation policy?
Cancellations or changes to course registrations should be provided in writing to ExecEd@anuenterprise.com.au at the earliest opportunity. Late substitution of registrants and shifting to other advertised courses is permissible but subject to approval and may incur a cost.
What is the refund policy?
Attendees are required to provide no less than 10 working days’ notice to request a full refund. No further refund will be offered once this period has expired. Participants are able to nominate another attendee from their organisation at no charge.
Is my registration/ticket transferable?
Yes, your registration is transferable to another employee at your organisation at any time prior to the day of the event. Please advise new registration details to ExecEd@anuenterprise.com.au