Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.
My recent article in Policy & Politics investigates how bureaucrats on the front line make policy implementation decisions. Political leaders and lawmakers tend to assume that street-level bureaucrats will follow their direction and implement polices as they devised. However, front line workers, in fact, have room to interpret the policies in the implementation process. To understand what important factors influence street-level bureaucrats’ implementation decisions, my article examines two central elements in policy implementation: 1) whether street-level bureaucrats’ policy orientation is congruent with that of elected politicians and 2) to what extent street-level bureaucrats have discretion in implementing policies. Continue reading SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Behavioural insights into what motivates public employees on the front line to respond to reforms championed by elected politicians
Sarah Ball and Brian W. Head
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