How might partnerships between public service designers and policymakers enable healthy shifts in lifestyle choices, or, even increase tax repayment rates, which require a behavioral response? How might they draw upon social capital to create space for community-based collaboration and solutions?
One interesting example is the UK Cabinet Office of the Behavioral Insights Team, or the “nudge unit.” They began work in July 2010 “to find innovative ways of encouraging, enabling and supporting people to make better choices for themselves.” The team has been employing a variety of empathic-based research methods – behavioral observation and psychology – to sculpt services on a small scale through iteration and evaluation. As a result of their innovative methodologies and proven outcomes, the team is no longer a peripheral experiment, but a core component to policymaking.
Some of their initial successes: 1. Personal text messaging was used to increase the repayment rates of court fines. One can assume that the channel in combination with the human tone proved to be effective. 2. Scenarios like – “9 out of 10 people in your area have paid their tax on time” – were written into documents that encouraged tax repayments. The focus on social capital influenced behavior; tax repayment rates were improved. While this list is quite straight forward, it shows potential.
David Halpern, director of the Behavioral Insights Team, writes in The Guardian that by “scrutinizing our [public] services from top to bottom with a behavioral lens…by shifting our focus, and resources, from treating expensive symptoms to acting on behavioral causes; and by reshaping services from passive delivery to…nurturing the capacity of citizens to help themselves and each other,” public service designers, policymakers, and social innovators have the ability to improve the quality of service outcomes while enhancing people’s lives.
This is the third of three related posts on empathetic and behavioral aspects of service design by Public Policy Lab fellow Liana Dragoman; also see part one and part two.