The start of a new administration is a great opportunity for federal agencies to take a fresh look at their programs and identify what’s working and what needs to be improved on for the betterment of the American people.
Studying behavioral insights has not been a priority in the past but doing this research and analyzing the data could be the key to inspiring a new generation to serve and allowing our government to work more effectively altogether.
For this episode of ClearedCast we were joined by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that strives to revitalize the federal government by transforming the way it works and inspiring a new generation to serve. Loren DeJonge Schulman is the Vice President of Research, Analysis and Evaluation, and offers strategic vision and oversight for the organization’s research that is centered on improving the management and performance of the government.
What are Behavioral Insights?
“Behavioral insights” sound intuitive, but after understanding the term, it’s difficult to apply in practice – and specifically to your organization without some expertise or background. Behavioral insights are meant to open a window on how people process information or how they make or process choices. Our behavior is influenced by elements outside our conscious awareness, and we tend to underestimate the power of this “automatic” behavior.
The Partnership for Public Service, and partner Grant Thornton, found that leaders and government often lack access to really robust performance information about their organizations or the effectiveness of the programs that they run. But Loren feels that they may really just struggle with determining what data they can or what data is most relevant to the decisions that they need to make to improve their public goods and services.
examples on how this makes government more effective
The Center for Civic Design studied how humans interact with ballots in elections and how ballot design could be improved so it reflects citizens actual choices in the Democratic process, and not their misunderstanding or frustration thereafter. This is one example of how behavioral insights shows that some decisions are shaped by the way things are presented to us.
Loren also discussed how federal agencies like OMB and the Office of Evaluation Sciences moved forward using behavioral insights to increase the number of federal job seekers who voluntarily submit demographic information in their applications. This is an example of what’s known as changing the default and people probably encounter this when they’re signing up for several things online. Having more applicants voluntarily submit this data from the onset instead of filling out a completely new form was extremely important in national security hiring, because it’s critical for federal agencies to know who is applying for jobs, and that they are reaching a diverse candidate audience, ensuring the national security workforce is representative of the American people.
A Nudge in the Right Direction
There is a real opportunity for those interested in learning about behavioral insights and doing this type of research in their own government programs, and research that is relatively inexpensive. Applying changes of out of this research also usually means pretty small changes that can be done quickly, and that have a real and significant impact on the populations that government programs benefit.
There’s not a lot to lose and there’s a tremendous amount to gain with the with this concept. You will learn a tremendous amount about behavioral insights and have the opportunity to find out more about the Partnerships work in data through the full report here.