NEWS14 March 2019

Nudging behaviour for social change

Behavioural science Charities Impact 2019 Media News Public Sector UK Youth

UK ­­– The Big Issue, The Student Room and the Scottish Government have all effectively used nudging techniques to change behaviour.

Nudge panel_crop

Yesterday (Wednesday) at the MRS’s annual conference, Impact 2019, three case studies were presented highlighting the differing ways behavioural science could help with societal issues.

Hate crime

For the Scottish government, it had to deal with an increase in hate crimes – last year more than 5,300 cases of hate crime were reported in Scotland. It had to overcome some suspicion around curbing free speech and that any campaign would trivialise the issue.

Claire Prentice, head of safer and greener marketing at Scottish Government said the target for its most recent campaign were bystanders as well as victims. It went for creative that “called out haters for what they were” in letter form to give a personal and emotional connection and a sense of collective responsibility.

The campaign reached more than two million people and social media reaction was excellent: a 10 percentage point increase in understanding of what hate crime was and a six percentage point increase in those who would report it online if they saw a hate crime.

student wellbeing at university

Student mental health is a huge issue for student community business, The Student Room, and in a climate of worrying increases in suicides and self-harm among the university population, it developed a real-time continuous improvement app – Enlitened – as a new way of helping students improve wellbeing.

Both market research and academic research was used to develop the app which includes reward based incentives. Julie Vincent, insight director, TSR said: “Students understood surveys and had low expectations of them, so we had to stop talking about surveys.”

The crucial part of the app was that students wanted to be heard but also see what happened as a result of their feedback, which was built into the app. Three universities are currently piloting Enlitened with two more ready to start.

paying for the big issue

The Big Issue is well established as a magazine and a self-help route for homeless people to gain new opportunities. But 20% of people give money without taking the magazine, which undermines the behavioural mission of The Big Issue by losing the transaction element.

The company worked with The Behavioural Architects to look at the barriers; they were limited by the fact that they didn’t have control over many variables – in particular, neither the buyers nor the sellers.

TBA identified three nudges: to push the transaction element with large stickers on sellers vests showing the price; increase the salience of the content by going back to the sellers making call outs; and re-educating people, often using third spaces. There has been a 46% increase in sales since these nudges have been introduced.