5by5: Public Policy and Behavioral Insights with Jane Howe

A 5by5 conversation about Public Policy and Behavioral Insights with Jane Howe, Senior Manager, Deloitte Canada

Interview by Twisha Shah-Brandenburg and Thomas Brandenburg

“We sometimes look for these big ‘aha’ insights when it’s the straightforward ones that we should be delving into.”  —Jane Howe

Question 1
Behavioral insights has made headway informing public policy in certain parts of the world. What can be learned from these applications for organizations that are still in skeptical or in consideration mode? (or how can you influence organizations to accept different ways of problem solving?)

The beautiful thing about public policy is that its focused on doing right by its citizens. At its most basic, public policy is intended to protect citizens and to address their needs. If we understand people on a deeper level (and leverage behavioural insights to do so), we can ensure our programs and our policies do as much as they can to support citizens. Isn’t that what we all want?? Behavioural insights can help to increase uptake of a program/service, improve compliance with a policy/regulation, and improve adoption of a process/system – these are fundamental business issues that governments continuously try to tackle – putting a new behavioural lens on an old challenge may just improve your outcomes.

“This is a new era in the public policy space. Two things are important in this new area: client centricity and evidence-based decision making.” —Jane Howe

Question 2
What are the ethical considerations that go into your planning process? How do you apply a human centered approach to organizations that haven’t always been traditionally been transparent or planned policy keeping user needs in mind?

This is a new era in the public policy space. Two things are important in this new area: client centricity and evidence-based decision making. Human centered design, and specifically behavioural insights, allows organizations to check both of these boxes. From a client-centricity point of view, it is important to engage with your client. It’s not easy to get approvals to talk to citizens when you’re in government (as odd as that sounds) but the evidence-base that doing so provides is critical in supporting the design and delivery decisions of your program or service.

 

Question 3
Would you be willing to share instances of failure? What lessons could designers / policy makers learn from applications that didn’t work?

Sometimes when we do ethnographic research with clients or users, the insights that we find seem very logical and straightforward. We sometimes look for these big ‘aha’ insights when it’s the straightforward ones that we should be delving into. The value of the research risks being undermined if people don’t see the power of the research.

Question 4
If behavioral insights became part of every policy makers’ toolkit what are some best practices that could be leveraged?

Start with the problem you are trying to solve, or more specifically the behaviour that you are trying to change. If you can articulate the problem, then you can diagnose the potential behavioural barriers that are inhibiting the behaviour that you desire.

Question 5
What are some untapped areas / sectors were behavioral insights can be used to help shape policy?

Business behaviour! We focus so much on individual’s behaviours, where behavioural insights can help to shape policy for citizens and consumers. But what about businesses? They are a huge part of the equation. How might we get them to participate in a new program, or comply with a new regulation, or adopt a new system for engaging with government.

Interested in this topic? Register to be part of a larger community at the Design Intersections conference in Chicago May 24-25, 2018.

 

 

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