The Applying Behavioural Insights to Public Policy Forum provides a detailed introduction to behavioural economics along with a practical guide to applying behavioural insights to improve government programs, policies and administration.
The field of behavioural economics focuses on the many ways in which people are typically not like rational, calculating machines pursuing their maximum material self-interest. We all have limited attention spans and find it cognitively taxing dealing with complicated choices with uncertain consequences, and our decisions thus tend to reflect a variety of biases and our reliance on simple heuristics or rules of thumb.
These are not occasional aberrations or minor deviations from rationality, these are systematic and predictable patterns in human behaviour.
Many governments around the world have recently created behavioural insights teams to rethink traditional approaches to design and develop new solutions to policy problems in a range of key areas, including health care, social welfare, employment, education, taxation, crime and energy use.
In this forum, we will examine the key insights revealed by behavioural economics and how these insights are being applied and tested by governments to address critical policy problems.
Professor Hiscox is an acclaimed leader in the field of applied behavioural insights, serving as founding Director of BETA in Australia and advising behavioural insights teams in several other countries. At Harvard, he teaches the popular course, Behavioural Insights and Public Policy, examining applications of behavioural economics to policy design, along with Field Experiments for Policy and Program Evaluation. This executive forum draws from both those Harvard courses.
What will you take away?
This forum provides a systematic review of the key insights from the science of behavioural economics, then examines several important applications of those insights to help solve problems in specific areas of policy. It also provides a general overview of the existing empirical track record of what works. At the conclusion of the forum all attendees should have a clear understanding of the key insights and be able to:
- Diagnose the critical behavioural issues associated with the success or failure of a particular policy or program in any area of interest
- Design one or more behavioural intervention or “nudge” that can address those issues
- Describe the type of trial that could accurately assess the effectiveness of the intervention
Who should attend?
The forum is ideal for public servants, policy practitioners and other professionals interested in public policy who want solid grounding in the theoretical foundations of behavioural economics and are looking for up-to-date evidence on ways in which these insights can be put to good use to help solve critical policy problems. Some background in economics, psychology, or other fields of social science is helpful but not required.
Attend to learn:
- Exploring how behavioural economics has improved our ability to explain individual behaviour relevant to solving core policy problems
- Examining the policy areas where behavioural nudges been applied most successfully to generate large improvements in outcomes
- Diagnosing critical behavioural issues associated with the success or failure of a particular policy or program
- Designing a behavioural intervention
Department of Government, Harvard University
Michael J. Hiscox is the Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs in the Department of Government, Harvard University. At Harvard, he is the Director of the Sustainability, Transparency, Accountability Research (STAR) Lab and a member of the Behavioural Insights Group at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He is also a faculty associate at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
While on leave from Harvard between 2015 and 2017, Professor Hiscox was the founding Director of the Behavioural Economics Team (BETA) in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Government. He continues to serve as an adviser to BETA. Professor Hiscox has written two books and numerous articles for leading scholarly journals. Working with governments, non-profit organisations, and corporations, he has designed and implemented randomised trials to evaluate a wide range of government policies, company initiatives, and programs administered by non-profit organisations in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire.
Professor Hiscox received his Bachelor of Economics (First Class) from the University of Sydney in 1989 and his PhD in Government from Harvard University in 1997.
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