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Monday, 13 October 2014

Don’t re-invent the wheel - use the evidence

The Big Lottery Fund, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Nesta (National Endowment for Science and the Arts) have formed a partnership, The Alliance for Useful Evidence. The Alliance is an open access network of individuals from across government, universities, charities, business and local authorities in the UK and beyond. Membership is free, and is open to everyone, from interested individuals in charities, academics, local authorities, practitioners, think tanks, to government and commercial businesses.

Source: @ProfByron via Twitter

This alliance aims to become a hub for evidence initiatives in the UK, providing a forum for members to share good practice and avoid the duplication of work. All of which is long overdue - at Behaviour Workshops we have extensive experience of working with the public sector and have seen many times how research and interventions have been duplicated, often because of the difficulty in accessing and sharing information about the results from previous interventions. So we’re hoping that the alliance becomes a key resource for behaviour change practitioners. To sign up or find out more click here.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Behavioural economics, social marketing and JOGGing at the European Social Marketing Conference

Just back from the European Social Marketing Conference in Rotterdam where Behaviour Workshops asked delegates the provocative question “Behavioural Economics - Friend or Enemy of Social Marketing?” Thanks to everybody who came along for joining in the debate - our slides, plus all the other conference presentations will soon be posted on the ESMA site   

Overall, this was a thought provoking and stimulating get-together, with a wide range of interesting speakers and well attended with delegates from most European Countries, plus some from much further afield – including South Africa, New Zealand and the US. Unsurprisingly, the largest contingent was from The Netherlands, where social marketing underpins many interesting and well evaluated programmes such as JOGG – an innovative programme that encourages young people (0-19 years) to lead healthy and active lives.

Coincidentally, the BBC todaycarries the news that Public Health England is urging children to drink waterinstead of sugary drinks – not just to stave off obesity, but also because of rising rates of tooth decay caused by all that sugar. No doubt, the Dutch JOGGers would approve – and we don’t have any excuses: every conference delegate came home with a handy JOGG water bottle! 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Behavioural economics meets social marketing in Rotterdam

Great to hear that our presentation Behavioural Economics – Enemy or Friend of Social Marketing? has been selected for the European Social Marketing conference, taking place in Rotterdam this September. The presentation will include insights from the research and analysis that went into our chapter in the forthcoming Handbook of Persuasion and Social Marketing (more details to follow). Hope to see you at the conference.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Nudging the way to better food choices: Brighton and Hove in 2024?

The latest Annual Report of the Director of Public Health NHS Brighton & Hove City Council, which has just been published, has taken an innovative approach to its subject by projecting the story 10 years into the future. The report describes the population demographics, morbidity and mortality, lifestyle, behaviour, education, social and healthcare systems, housing and major project completions as they could be in Brighton and Hove in 2024. Whilst it may be conjectural, the report is based on evidence from the Office of National Statistics population estimates, published literature on developments in health and social care and extrapolation of data from past trends to 10 years hence.

The author of the report is Dr Tom Scanlon, Director of Public Health, Brighton & Hove City Council, with sections written by members of the public health team. The report looks at demographic trends and lifestyles, including an epidemic of obesity – plus education, housing, mental health, transport, and the economy: all factors which will affect public health.

The section of the report on obesity reflects Public Health England’s recommendations on food availability in schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather and notes that “in 2018 the last vending machine was finally removed from the city’s education establishments, and a year later from the city’s sports venues and leisure centres.” On page 24, the following appears,

“The Healthy Partners Award scheme, now in its seventh year means that over 300 of Brighton & Hove’s cafes and restaurants now routinely offer ‘Me Size’ plates – proportionately sized and priced to help families make healthy choices. The city’s annual ‘Nudge’ competition regularly rewards schools, leisure centres, cafes, bars and restaurants for innovative design, lay-out and incentives to promote healthy eating.”

Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler (authors of ‘Nudge’) - Brighton and Hove salutes you! 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Seafront Cycling Nudge in Brighton & Hove

Recently arrived next to the seafront cycle lane in Hove – a handy reminder to pedestrians not to wander in front of bikes. And a way of steering cyclists towards the bike lane that is an improvement on the usual admonitory signs.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

MINDSPACE goes west as Behavioural Insight Team heads EAST

In 2010 the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), the guys formerly co-located at no 10 Downing Street tasked with bringing behavioural science to government, published MINDSPACE. 

Now the BIT has published the latest mnemonically-inclined guidance paper, EAST. It’s aimed at helping to ensure that when policy makers design interventions, they:

Make it Easy
Make it Attractive
Make it Social
Make it Timely

As the BIT says, “In the early years, we often used the MINDSPACE framework, and indeed some of the team were centrally involved in developing it. We still use this framework.”  But the BIT found, “in our day-to-day trials and policy work that some of the most reliable effects came from changes that weren’t easily captured by MINDSPACE, or indeed by much of the academic literature. For example, we have often found that simplifying messages, or removing even the tiniest amount of ‘friction’ in a process, can have a large impact.”  Fair enough. Then, more worringly, the BIT guys go on to say, that they’d found in seminars that the nine elements of MINDSPACE “were hard for busy policymakers to keep in mind (itself reflecting ‘cognitive chunking’).” 

This is a sad reflection on the policy makers and the policy making process – is it really so hard to use a framework with nine elements, handily combined into a simple mnemonic?  We have used MINDSPACE in our workshops (see Is A Nudge Enough) and in conference presentations, and delegates find it insightful and useful.

Anyhow, the EAST framework was developed by the BIT from early 2012, tested in seminars with UK Civil Servants, and delivered in a short series of lectures in Harvard and Washington by David Halpern. Since then, the BIT has refined and developed some of the core concepts and ideas, based on new findings and feedback. As the BIT notes, “Getting familiar with the EAST framework won’t turn you into the world’s leading expert on behavioural insight. There are more complex frameworks and typologies, and many subtle and fascinating effects that EAST does not cover. But if even a small percentage of policies and practices are adapted as a result, EAST should lead to services that are easier and more pleasant for citizens to use, and more effective and cheaper too.”  And it’s hard to argue with that.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

8.5k hits on SlideShare – our talks on behavioural economics and social marketing

Back in the day there weren’t many SlideShare presentations on the subject of behavioural economics. Now there are lots – some better than others, but many worth a look. My slides “An Introduction to Behavioural Economics,” for a workshop organised by Brighton agency Nixon McInnes in 2011 have now had nearly 5,500 views.  And there have been more than 3,000 views of ”Is Behavioural Economics the New Social Marketing?” a presentation with Viv Caisey delivered at a Charity Comms conference.

Since then, we have run many more sessions, updated and expanded on many of the earlier themes, and run workshops on behavioural economics, social marketing and behaviour change. Want to find out more? As well as this blog, you can follow Behaviour Workshops on Twitter @BehaviourW or check out our latest workshop: Is a Nudge Enough?

You can get in touch by email to Or talk to us on 0845 094 5581.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Football in Pub Nudge for Beery Brits

Behavioural economics meets football in this variant of a classic Dutch nudge, combining two British obsessions: beer and football. No-one who has read ‘Nudge’ could forget the classic Schipol airport fly-on-the-urinal to aid straight-aiming in the Gents.  

But this variation on a theme was spotted whilst taking refreshment on a carfree walk in Kent, at The Pilot Inn, Dungeness. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the landlord is well versed in behavioural economics, but it’s a great place to stop off on a walk, eat freshly cooked fish & chips and down a beer or two. As Elvis Costello might say, with this kind of helpful nudge, “My Aim is True.”

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sin taxes versus social norms: two approaches to antisocial behaviour

Las Palmas is the capital of Gran Canaria, and with 300,000 people it's the seventh biggest city in Spain. As a holiday destination with a long sandy beach, it’s also a popular party town - think San Sebastian without gourmet tapas, but with better weather!

But not everyone wants to party all night. Even the infamous night owls of Spain need to get some sleep. Hence these two approaches to antisocial behaviour, seen on the promenade alongside the beach of Las Canteras.

Although both these signs (photos above and below) use information and exhortation, they show two distinctly different approaches:

One is based on a legal/regulatory method - issuing fines for bad behaviour. It’s akin to John Stuart Mill’s "sin taxes" as a way to deter certain behaviours. 

The other approach invokes a social norm, reminding party animals that most people – apparently 92% in Las Palmas - are actually asleep between 11pm and 7am. 

So there’s a big stick, with €90-150 fines. Or an appeal to neighbourly behaviour based on a social norm. 

We wonder which approach works best? 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Seven Common Misunderstandings About Social Marketing and Behavioural Economics

An understanding of social marketing and behavioural economics is essential for anyone who is involved in planning or implementing behavioural change interventions. But there are often misunderstandings about the essential elements of social marketing and behavioural economics, how and when they should be used, and how each discipline relates to the other.
The seven most common misunderstandings include:  
1.  Behavioural economics is a subset of social marketing.
It isn’t. It is a discipline in its own right with a long history, which some economists date back to Adam Smith, writing in the 1750’s.

2.  Behavioural economics is all about “Nudge.
Well, up to a pointBehavioural economics has a long history (see 1) it just wasn’t always called behavioural economics (or even economics, in the early days). A lot of the findings of behavioural economics come from discovery of the anomalies in the assumptions and predictions of conventional models of economics. So Nudge is just the tip of the behavioural economics iceberg.

3. Social marketing and behavioural economics are mutually exclusive.
Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t - although they can be used together, sometimes they work better apart. Some elements from each discipline will be familiar to exponents of both social marketing and behavioural economics – such as the power of social norms. When it comes to choosing the right kind of intervention, it’s a matter of horses for courses.

4.  Social marketing social media.
No it doesn’t. Although social media can be a useful tool in behaviour change, there is a common misconception that social marketing is a subset of social media. Making things even more confusing, marketing types often talk about “social marketing media.” Whatever that is…

5.  Effective behaviour change campaigns depend on getting the right information to the right people.
It would be easy to give the public information and hope they change behaviour but we know that doesn’t work very satisfactorily. Otherwise, as the famous quote goes, “none of us would be obese, none of us would smoke and none of us would drive like lunatics.

6. Social marketing is expensive.
Not necessarily. There is strong evidence to show that well implemented social marketing campaigns can achieve cost-effective behavioural change. Measuring the rate of return on a social marketing investment, and capturing all the relevant costs, means that interventions can provide value for money.

7. Behavioural economics is cheap.
It depends what you mean by “cheap.” Interventions based on behavioural economics don’t usually require the processes that can make social marketing costly – like developing insight and segmenting the audience. So that’s how behavioural economics can save money – which is always going to be popular with the politicians and policy makers who control the purse strings. But re-designing processes and choice environments using behavioural economics is not free. So it all depends on what you mean by “cheap.”  Because behaviour change is complicated and difficult, it’s unwise to expect any form of intervention to be “cheap.” Until you compare it with the costs of not intervening…

Find out more

There’s more thinking along these lines in our chapter on Behavioural Economics and Social Marketing: Points of Contact?which appears in Volume II of Stewart, D. (Ed) Handbook of Persuasion and Social Marketingto be published by Praeger/Santa Barbara, CA and RoutledgeLondon, later this year.

For more on the relationship between behavioural economics and social marketing, and what it means in practice for behaviour change interventions, check out our new workshop for 2104 – Is A Nudge Enough?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Behaviour Change at UCL
Behaviour Workshops attended the launch of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change on Monday 17th February. The aims of the Centre are:
1. To foster leadership, cross disciplinary research, teaching and knowledge transfer at UCL.
2. To improve cross- disciplinary communication and collaboration within and beyond UCL.
3. To enhance academic, public and policy impact of UCL’s research and expertise in behaviour change, both nationally and internationally.
The Centre was launched to a packed house of academics, students and behaviour change professionals by Professor Susan Michie, who has spearheaded the development of this exciting new initiative.
Susan Michie’s introduction was followed by presentations from Professor Alexi Marmot on design for behaviour change and Professor Mike Kelly – whose thoughts on behaviour change and rocket science we covered in the previous post.
Behaviour Workshops looks forward to following the progress and outputs from the centre and attending the programme of events it has planned for 2014. Further details about the centre can be found here

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Behaviour change: actually, “it is rocket science”

Behaviour Workshops attended the launch event of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change on Monday 17th February in London.  We will be posting more about the launch later, but in the meantime, here are some comments from one of the speakers, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Centre at NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Mike described the six common mistakes people make about behaviour change - we thought we’d share them with you:

1. "Behaviour Change is common sense.” It’s not – it is a science, it’s a discipline.

2. “It is about getting the message across.” On the whole, messages don’t work in isolation

3. “Knowledge drives behaviour in some directly connected way.” It doesn’t.

4. “People are rational.” They aren’t. Given the right information and circumstances sometimes some people act rationally – but sometimes they don’t.

5. "People are irrational.” Not always. (see 4)

6. “We can predict human errors and account for them.” We might be able to predict some things, but we can’t predict everything. And we should stop pretending we can.

Which is why, according to Mike, “behaviour change actually IS rocket science.”  But non-rocket scientists should not despair. As Mike said, whilst behaviour change is complex, we can learn a lot from many disciplines.

Mike responded to a question about consumer marketing as being a great example of how to drive behaviour change. And, invoking the spirit of behavioural economics, concluded “You should ignore Nudge at your peril”.  We couldn’t agree more - see details of our latest workshop - Is A Nudge Enough? 

NICE’s latest public health guidance “Behaviour change: individual approaches,” published in January 2014.


Thursday, 6 February 2014


Welcome to our first post on the Behaviour Workshops blog site.

We will be posting more here - on social marketing, behavioural economics and behaviour change.

See you later!

The Behaviour Workshops team