Behavioural Insights Team

Behavioural Insight Team Credit
Case Study

“Creating services which are easier to use and more effective.”

David Halpern, Chief Executive, Behavioural Insights Team

  • Impact Measurem- ent
  • Partnersh- ips
Location in government

National government

Mission statement

“To help organisations apply behavioural insights in order to support people to make better choices for themselves and society”

Size of team

32

Annual spend

£1m (2014)1

Example of impact

In the first two years of it operation, it has achieved government savings of around 22 times the cost of the team.2

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is the world’s first government unit dedicated to applying insights from behavioural science to policy challenges. Over four years, the team has implemented low cost, high impact changes in fields as diverse as taxation, healthcare, employment and environmental sustainability. The Team also pioneer the use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) as part of implementing policy change across government.

What it does

Drawing on the insights of behavioural science, the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) designs trials to test policy ideas that could help solve government problems. In the first two years of it operation, BIT has achieved government savings of around 22 times the cost of the team.

BIT’s work is based on their EAST framework:

1. Make it Easy: make the option the default, and reduce the ‘hassle’ factor of taking up the service. Simplify the messages, breaking down complex goals into easier actions.

2. Make it Attractive: attract attention by using images, colours or personalisation, or by designing rewards and incentives.

3. Make it Social: show that the majority already perform the desired behaviour to encourage others to do the same; and tap into the power of networks so that behaviours are encouraged through mutual support and peer-to-peer.

4 Make it Timely: prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive, and consider the immediate costs as we are more influenced by those that take effect immediately than those delivered later.

One of BIT's most famous projects involved making minor changes to tax letters sent out by the UK Government. By simply changing letters to say that most people in their local area had already paid their taxes, they were able to boost repayment rates by around 5 percentage points. This trial is part of a range of interventions that have collectively helped to bring forward over £200 million in additional tax revenue to HMRC.3

Interesting features
  • Partnerships: After four years as a unit inside the UK Government, BIT spun out of government in 2014 to become an independent social purpose company. The team continues to work closely with UK Government and public services, but now has the ability to work internationally and with private companies and non-profits.
  • Impact measurement: BIT has pioneered the use of RCTs across government that making incremental changes and drawing on existing data collection systems.

Footnotes

  1. Confirmed in email with Owain Service, Man-aging Director, Behavioural Insights Team to Nesta, 14 May 2014

  2. Confirmed in email with Owain Service, Man-aging Director, Behavioural Insights Team to Nesta, 14 May 2014

  3. Hallsworth, M., List, J.A., Metcalfe, R.D. & Vlaev, I. (2014) ‘The Behavioralist As Tax Collector: Using Natural Field Experiments to Enhance Tax Compliance’, NBER Working Paper No. 20007, Issued in March 2014, NBER Programs. Available online: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20007 [Last accessed 15 May 2014]


Photo Credit: ‘Shard and Oxo tower, London’ ’ by Rob Taylor is licensed under CC by 2.0

This page was last updated on

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 15:51