FEATURE1 October 2013

The behavioural insight hothouse

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How the Cabinet Office’s ‘Nudge Unit’ has grown to influence policy and strategy development across government – and beyond. By Jonathan Knott.


As controversies over UK government schemes like Workfare and Universal Credit show, there are no easy answers when it comes to getting people back into work. So when a JobCentre Plus in Loughton, Essex, found it could noticeably improve results by making some straightforward, inexpensive changes to procedures, people sat up and took notice.

Administrative processes for some jobseekers were reorganised so that customers talked about getting back to work on their first day – and conversations focused on the two weeks ahead, rather than those just past. People still claiming benefits after eight weeks were asked to take part in expressive writing and ‘strengths identification’ exercises. The result? Thirteen weeks after signing on, people in this group were 15-20% more likely than a control group to be back in work. The scheme is now being expanded across Essex and in other parts of the country.

It may be early days, but for now it’s another success for the ...