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A nudge in the right direction

How understanding human behavior can lead to more effective government

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CT-2021-two-woman-chat-by-windowThe people of this nation depend on government to perform at the highest level. To optimize performance, some agencies are drawing on knowledge about human behavior to improve how they do business. By understanding how people process information and make decisions, and using that knowledge to inform how programs are designed and administered, those agencies are producing better results—often quickly and at little cost.

At the Department of Education, staff and a team of outside researchers sent personalized text messages over the summer to high school graduates who had been accepted to college, boosting how many enrolled in the fall. The Department of Defense increased the number of service members who enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan, the federal government’s retirement program, by nudging them at a “reset” point in their life—as they transferred to a new base. And an easier to understand letter from the Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program asking participants to verify their eligibility led to a higher response rate and fewer eligible participants losing access to the program.

While the application of behavioral insights has tremendous potential to improve the work of government, the movement is still in early stages.

To encourage more widespread use, the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton hosted five workshops with federal employees between March and September 2020. The sessions examined how behavioral insights could improve processes and programs and deliver better agency performance.

This report presents the findings from those workshops, including insights from workshop presenters, many of whom are applying behavioral insights in their own agencies. It explains how behavioral insights can make government more effective, provides tips for choosing a behavioral insights project and getting leaders to buy in, describes how to test whether a behavioral insights project was successful and offers guidance on how to build on the results of a test.

Download the full survey report: A nudge in the right direction. This survey is in partnership with Partnership for Public Service.

Contact

Robert Shea Robert Shea
National Managing Principal Public Policy
T +1 703 637 2780