FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES ON ‘Beyond Nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of Behavioural Public Policy & Administration’
Nudge is frequently in the news at the moment. Thaler and Sunstein coined the term to describe the way in which governments could use small policy interventions (like an advert, a sign, or a letter) to ‘nudge’ people into changing their behaviour for the better, both for themselves and for society at large. Experts in nudge (so called behavioural scientists) have been busy during the current pandemic advising the government on the best way of getting people to follow coronavirus health advice whether it be washing your hands while singing happy birthday or staying at home to save the NHS.
We already know however that many people do not do what they are told. In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I describe how scholars working in public health draw on the notion of fatalism to explain the intractability of citizens who ignore their doctors’ advice. A fatalist mindset inclines some people to believe that their fortunes are, in the strongest sense of the word, predetermined or at least heavily constrained by forces beyond their control. People who believe their lives are characterised by luck, powerlessness and impenetrable complexity tend to respond poorly to authoritative advice. Three types of fatalism are of particular relevance to nudge. Continue reading FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Why Nudge Sometimes Fails: Fatalism and the Problem of Behaviour Change→
It seems that people are growing increasingly disappointed with how representative democracy functions. A big part of the problem is arguably a de-attachment of policymakers from citizens’ everyday problems, which prompts citizens to react by turning their backs on conventional politics. Many scholars and other observers have turned to democratic innovations for solutions on how the link between democratic publics and their democratic leaders could be improved. Innovations based on the theory of deliberative democracy have probably received most attention by scholars and practitioners. Deliberative democracy refers to a decision-making process, which emphasizes informed, reflexive and egalitarian interpersonal communication.
To put theory into practice, mini-publics, like citizen initiative reviews, juries and assemblies have been widely used in democracies across the world. In these deliberative groups, randomly selected individuals discuss and decide upon a specific political issue on the basis of best expert knowledge and argumentation. A considerable number of studies have discussed theoretically whether deliberative bodies could fix the problems of contemporary representative democracy. Other studies have used experimental methods to examine the internal proceedings and effects of these deliberations. What has, however, almost totally been ignored by scholars are the views of policy-making elites, whose opinions on democracy eventually determine the shape of new democratic institutions. Continue reading Comparing citizen and policymaker perceptions of deliberative democratic innovations→
They go by a variety of names; nudge units, behavioural insights (BI) teams and behavioural economics teams. However, they all owe a debt to the pioneering work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the United Kingdom (UK). Based on behavioural research on the ‘irrational’ behaviours of citizens and/or policy target audiences, ‘nudge’ instruments have been tested through rigorous research in the form of randomised controlled trials. Using this approach, the BIT UK has had a significant impact on the policy innovation landscape across the globe. Teams have emerged in Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and many more countries.
Our research recently published in Policy & Politics explores the BI phenomena as it emerged in Australia, from which we derive analysis relevant to global actors and governments engaged BI. In two independent exploratory studies, we sought to understand how such teams actually operate in practice. One study was an in-depth observational study of staff in the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA). The other was an interview-based study of three teams, namely, those operating in two state governments, New South Wales and Victoria, together with the Australian government’s BETA. Continue reading Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial→
Policy scholars are interested in the positions and preferences of politically involved actors. Those preferences can either serve as independent variables (for example, to explain coordination among or the strategic behaviour of actors), or as dependent variables (for example to evaluate actors’ coherence over time). But how do I identify these policy positions or preferences? Should I perform interviews or code the official statements of actors involved in policymaking? How valuable are my survey results in comparison to media data? These are typical questions concerning methods of data gathering and there are unlikely to be absolute answers to the question of which is the best method. However, our recent Policy & Politics article contributes to the discussion regarding these questions and is based on unique data drawn from three cases. Using these data, it compares actor statements about policies, gathered once through surveys and once through text coding official statements. Continue reading Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?→
Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews, Co-editors of Policy & Politics
New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: Working with citizens and changing behaviours
In this month’s virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing, Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons. Continue reading Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours→