Six key takeaways from the Behavioural Science & Policy Association Conference
14 June 2022
Many governments have recognised the value of behavioural science and how it can contribute to policy design. In the latest Behavioural Science & Policy Association (BSPA) conference, experts from the field discussed how behavioural science is being integrated into policy and pointed to innovative solutions to tackle social challenges such as inequality, social stigma, and global health issues.
Here, we share our 6 key takeaways from the 2-day conference:
Policy design needs integrated, inter-disciplinary BeSci teams
Samantha Power, administrator of USAID and previous US Representative at the United Nations, and Esther Duflo, Nobel Prize winner of Economic Sciences 2019 opened the conference. They believe that to make behavioural science as useful as possible in policy, integrated, interdisciplinary teams are needed. An integrated approach would have behavioural science applied in every part of the operation - where it is part of the process of policy design right from the beginning.
In a later panel discussion, other speakers also agreed on the value of interdisciplinary teams, including individuals with backgrounds in physics or law and not only those with a Behavioural Science background.
Rodney Ghali (Impact and Innovation Unit, Privy Council Office, Govt of Canada) added that “Behavioural science is not a silver bullet” but it can influence decision-making at the policy level
USAID tackling social stigma by redesigning HIV prevention medicine pill bottles
Samantha Power described a project where USAID and Conrad, a global non-profit, discovered the biggest behavioural barrier to taking preventative HIV medication in South Africa was the social stigma attached to it. Working with IDEO, a design agency, they found that by simply redesigning the pill bottle to look like a lip-gloss container, making it easier to hide, they could help women feel more comfortable taking it in public.
Innumeracy makes individuals’ decision making more prone to emotions
Ellen Peters, Professor and Director of the Center for Science Communication Research at the University of Oregon, introduced her new book ‘Innumeracy in the Wild’. The book discusses the influence of numerical ability and disability in decision making, illustrating the effect with case studies and the latest research from the field. Through her own research, she found that innumerate individuals’ decisions are liable to emotions and storytelling. That’s why information architecture methods, and how information is communicated is so important in policy.
Building cognitive ease for funding boosts student enrolment
When Caitlin Anzelone (Center of Applied Behavioural Science at MDRC) began the project at colleges in Ohio, the funder believed the lack of financial aid prevented students from enrolling in summer courses. But during 9 months of initial research, they found that students had enough grant funding, but it was too cognitively demanding for students to understand and work out what funding they had left. This understanding helped them design two very successful interventions which both boosted enrollment and are now being scaled across other colleges.
Understanding habits in supermarket shops can act as a proxy for credit scores
Low-income consumers often cannot build a credit score, limiting their access to loans and finance, or leaving them with costly, high-interest loans. Jung Youn Lee (Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) worked with a conglomerate in the Middle East – a supermarket chain and credit card issuer. They found habits persist across domains, so they wanted to test whether habits in grocery shopping might reflect habits in how people manage their finances in general. They matched 30,000 consumers and built a credit-scoring algorithm using grocery buying data. They identified items that were more likely to be purchased by defaulters – spam, mortadella, cheap alcohol, cigarettes. They also found that defaulters were less consistent in spending – eg no regular weekly shop, but any day, any amount.
Using grocery data, credit card approval was more likely for low-income individuals. They are now building a Buy Now Pay Later facility for the supermarket to help low income, reliable customers access credit when needed.
Randomised Controlled Trials are not practical in every context
Ammaarah Martinus (BI4 Gov, Western Cape, South Africa) emphasised that in the Global South, RCTs are expensive and not practical. Instead, they have found quasi-experimental approaches like A-B testing that don’t necessarily need to be randomised much more practical.
Bringing practitioners together to discuss their experiences is a useful exercise and is helping the learning process in applied BeSci so that the maximum potential can be achieved.
We are super proud to be a Finalist for the AQR Qualitative Excellence Award! https://t.co/SiZvTQpj5T1 month, 2 weeks ago
The Behavioural Architects' articles are always stimulating, entertaining and informative and make BE principles both engaging as well as usable for all our readersEditor Impact Magazine and Research-live.com
Our digital clubhouse which is designed to inspire, share best practice and delight would be very different without The Behavioural ArchitectsGemma Greaves Global Managing Director The Marketing society
Its client testimonials show it has made behavioural economics accessible and actionableMRS judges ‘best new agency’ award
TBA have brought behavioural science thinking to some of our challenges in a way that is accessible for colleagues from across the business and has created actionable outputsMartin Bryant, Senior Consumer Insights Manager, KFC UK and Ireland
The Behavioural Architects did a great job of understanding our needs in this multinational project. They used a behavioural-led methodology to deliver clear and actionable outputRuchika Khattar, Global Marketing Innovation Manager, PepsiCo
One of the best articulated deliveries of insight I have seen in 20 years in the research sector.Damian Stevenson, Head of Insight at the Amateur Swimming Association
The behaviour change research has been the lynchpin of our entire new strategy to get more people swimmingNick Caplin, Amateur Swimming Association, Director of Participation
I’ve worked with TBA on a number of studies... all of them have allowed us to get to a depth of insight into basic behaviour that has transcended borders.Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
The magic comes from how TBA works with us to get to simple, actionable ideas using the BE principles.Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
Every project has resulted in activities that have unlocked growth for Diageo but, importantly, they’re also pieces of work that we keep going back to and that continue to inform new activities long after the original studies were run.Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
We tasked TBA with a challenging brief on a national survey and they exceeded all our expectations throughout the processJennifer Bufton, Sport England
Their enthusiasm and relevant application of this theory alongside highly actionable and impactful insight delivery that really engages our stakeholders.Jacinda Norman, Category Insights Manager, Waitrose
The team at The Behavioural Architects Sydney have played an instrumental role in uncovering the key behavioural challenges for the Bundaberg Rum brand.Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
By using behavioural principles in analysing research, we’ve been able to go beyond the rational system 2 responses and tap into the deeper, subconscious system 1 responses that are often difficult to articulate.Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
For the first time in over a decade, we have clarity on the shift that we need to make to bring our brand back into growth.Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
The TBA team are a friendly, highly organised and intelligent bunch of people to work with. We consider them an extension of our internal Insights teamClara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
The behavioural science work conducted by The Behavioural Architects Sydney team has uncovered insights that we would never have uncovered by asking consumers questions directlyAlla Nock, Marketing Research, Analytics & Capability Manager, Kimberly-Clark Australia
Observing consumer behaviour through a Behavioural Science lens has uncovered key nuggets that we have now used to influence behaviour.Alla Nock, Marketing Research, Analytics & Capability Manager, Kimberly-Clark Australia
The Behavioural Architects Sydney are a valued business partner of the Water Corporation (Perth), who’s expertise and insights into behaviour change has been instrumental in helping to shape our communications strategy and to deliver an outcome that produces results.Paul Tuffin, Customer Insights Manager, Customer Strategy & Engagement Water Corporation (Perth, Australia)