Behavioural insights, the not so new kid on the block

 In Resources

When it comes to behavioural insights there is considerable confusion amongst many potential commissioners. What is BI? How do the insights come about and how do they differ from long established evidence sources such as Mosaic etc?

Behavioural insights per se are nothing new. Actually, we all use them all the time. From the earliest age children observe the cues from their parents, learning how to act, when best to ask for something and when to keep their heads down. Commercial marketeers have been using a more sophisticated understanding of consumer preferences to shape how their latest product is sold to us since way before Mad Men hit our screens. As adults we ‘frame’ responses to interactions, based on our knowledge of how messages might be received, ‘…yes, of course the dress suits you, I just wonder if the other outfit shows off your best assets’. We’ve all been there.

The opportunity to apply behavioural insights within the public and social sector is what excites us at Social Engine. Knowing that citizens are influenced by a vast range of factors – from the weather to what their peers think, to the mental short-cuts that means we rapidly assess situations – digging into the detail really allows us to understand how and why people engage or disregard a range of life situations. This is never more important than in the sphere of public service provision. With local authority budgets increasingly constrained and the issues of our time (such as smoking, alcohol misuse, obesity, recycling, transport….) seemingly intractable, it͛s clear that new thinking is needed.

Whilst traditional research methods have provided the backbone of service or intervention design and have identified commonality around gender, geography and socio-economic factors, behavioural insights allows us to understand how and why citizens might engage with different schemes or ideas. Over the last couple of years we’ve worked with councils and organisations to explore more about removing barriers from engagement, about how to make it easy for citizens to change the way they interact with service providers in a way that makes it better for everyone. And that’s where BI meets social marketing. The combination is powerful bringing together a deep understanding of what life is like and designing approaches that add value to individuals and the wider community. And cost efficiencies along the way.

Capturing the behavioural insights that can shape effective interventions and approaches is no harder than securing existing research – its just requires a different tack. And whilst this may be new territory for many organisations, adopting BI techniques can be the thing that makes the difference between success and failure. Citizen-centred service provision, why wouldn’t you?

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