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How Far to Nudge?

Assessing Behavioural Public Policy

Peter John

This book addresses the wave of innovation and reforms that has been called the nudge or behavioural public policy agenda, which has emerged in many countries since the mid-2000s. Nudge involves developing behavioural insights to solve complex policy problems, such as unemployment, obesity and the environment, as well as improving the delivery of policies by reforming standard operating procedures. It reviews the changes that have taken place, in particular the greater use of randomised evaluations, and discusses how far nudge can be used more generally in the policy process. The book argues that nudge has a radical future if it develops a more bottom up approach involving greater feedback and more engagement with citizens.
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Chapter 5: Translating nudge into practice: Routes to innovation

Assessing Behavioural Public Policy

Peter John


At some stage, for all the talk of behavioural insights and studies done in the academy, there is a need to put these ideas into practice. With behavioural public policy, the transfer usually involves an agency or another public body, or sometimes a private company acting in a public way, which can introduce a nudge or behavioural insight into its standard operating procedures. By making a conscious choice to do behavioural public policy, an agency can redesign a policy or procedure that may have existed in the same form for many years, either from past legacies, or from other ideas, or that may even have been adopted unthinkingly. What the use of the behavioural insight involves is a different way of working, a new kind of implementation that has the behavioural insight incorporated as part of the communication or information flow from the organisation. A lot needs to happen, which involves an internal person or unit that wishes to oversee the insight, and then a delivery body, such as an implementation agency, which wishes to carry out the intervention; it requires some interest by a senior person in one of the organisations involved; it then needs authorisation for the intervention taking place, often at a political level; as a result of the authorisation some action has to be decided upon and then followed; then ideally some change takes place as a result of the intervention.

Just as in the world outside behavioural science, inertia...

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