Designing People-Centric Solutions Using Behavioural Insights

June 30, 20178:25 am528 views

With the application of BI (behavioural insights) gaining traction worldwide and Singapore too is showing some progress applying BI to public policies and programmes, there is a tremendous untapped potential of BI which needs to be explored.

Speaking at the Behavioural Exchange 2017 (BX2017), the leading international behavioural insights (BI) conference, Mr Peter Ong, Head of Civil Service in Singapore said, “Faced with a rapidly changing environment and a more savvy population, the Public Service needs to continually innovate to deliver policies and programmes that are people-centric, effective and timely. How can we do more with less, and in a way where citizens are meaningfully engaged?”

He further acknowledged the efforts of Singapore public agencies in integrating BI into public policy and spoke about how the Public Service can use BI to address complex and large-scale challenges, catalyse collaboration, and combine it with other evidence based tools to create innovative and productive solutions to policy problems.

“Ultimately, we are designing solutions for real people and not idealised actors. Because human behaviour is so complex, we must use a combination of BI and different tools to understand and shape decision-making,” Ong added.

In their 2017 report on “Behavioural Insights and Public Policy”, the OECD gathered more than 100 case studies and concluded that BI “can no longer be seen as a fashionable short-term foray.” International organisations such as the UN are looking to use behavioural insights to further their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and many governments are experimenting with nudges.BX conference 2017

Highlighting use of BI in some of the progressive areas in Singapore are:

  1. Support retirement adequacy: Retirement adequacy is a pressing issue in many developed, ageing countries. How can we encourage people to save enough and make better financial decisions over a lifetime? In Singapore, a key milestone is at age 55, when people can start withdrawing money from their Central Provident Fund accounts, or CPF accounts. The CPF Board found that sending more personalised letters and including what is known as a “pre-commitment device”, which suggested that an appointment had already been reserved for the person, more than doubled the attendance for its retirement planning programme from just under 14% to more than 31%.

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  1. Getting people to adopt healthier lifestyles is another complex and ongoing challenge. While we all know that the benefits are tremendous not just to individuals in terms of quality of life, but also to the country and society, by reducing the need for healthcare services and social support systems. While it is not easy to change a person’s lifestyle habits, but perhaps that inertia can be overcome by making it fun and social, layered with small motivations along the way.
  2. Catalysing Collaboration – Second, in many of the new and emerging challenges that Governments grapple with, the need for collaboration and joint action with partners will be increasingly important. BI can help promote such collaboration, by helping policymakers to understand how different actors make decisions across time, many of which could involve policies and programmes implemented by different government agencies.

With an impressive list of speakers including policy-makers, practitioners, and thought leaders, BX2017 has attracted over 400 attendees, who will learn about and discuss practical examples of how BI has been applied in different contexts and environments, from public, private and non-profit sectors, to physical and online environments.

The two-day conference brings together more than 50 speakers from various fields and around the world to discuss how BI can create sound policies and citizen-centric programmes. For instance, using a citizen-centric lens rather than an agency-centric approach allows us to think about how best to cluster and deliver services, and provide support at key moments of citizens’ lives.

Mr. Ong concludes saying, “Finally, BI is not a silver bullet. It is by understanding how BI can be used in combination with other evidence-based tools that we can provide robust insights and come up with innovative and productive solutions to policy problems. To tap the potential of BI, we will need to learn from each other’s experiences, stretch our imaginations on how it can be used, and ultimately put things into practice.”

Also read: Outlook 2020: Gazing into the Future of HR with Lee Murphy, Senior Director HR, Microsoft Asia Pacific

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