Quote of the week
“…(behavioural science) can…be deployed to influence the culture of the public service.”
— KPMG Report
If you’ve read Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, you know that the idea of using behavioural economics to influence how citizens act is probably the hottest thing going in public policy circles.
Simply put, organizations use “choice architecture” as part of a decision-making environment they want. They create a specific “default” to encourage people to pursue a certain course of action.
A simple example is the grocery store that puts milk and other basics at the back so you have to walk through expensive, discretionary goods to get there.
Governments can use behavioral science to incentivize us to pay taxes or pick up our garbage.
As Thaler and Sunstein say, for organizations “a key question is whether the relevant choice architecture is helpful and simple or harmful, complex and exploitative.”
KPMG has a report out as part of its Shifting Gears series that says governments can incorporate behavioural science into government reform initiatives.
The report argues that the traditional approaches to reforming public service work cultures have included what they call “efficiency-oriented management practices imported from the private sector.” We all know about those, of course, and they argue these are not enough. We know that others, such as Donald Savoie, agree.
They make a number of recommendations, of which a couple are worth noting. If governments were serious about promoting greater transparency, they argue that using a behavioral economics approach would make proactive disclosure the default choice.
Another refers to getting a results-focus. They suggest that program budgets be dedicated to evaluation and examination of results, and actually clawed back if not used for that purpose.
As a final recommendation, they suggest that if government is really serious about this approach, it would set up specialist teams to see how behavioural economics could serve its transformational goals.
Could this be a step for the next stage of Blueprint 2020?