Rebecca Nash writes:
Behaviour change is much talked about, but still not well understood, which is why it seemed a good subject for the IIPS – the Institute for Insight in the Public Services, the think tank jointly run by Henley Centre HeadlightVision and BMRB – to take on in its third breakfast briefing of the year at the ICA in London. The challenge is how to link the ambitions of behaviour change in policymaking with the various levers which can influence it, such as legislation, incentives, taxation, policy, fines and, most specifically, communications.
The event was unique in explicitly positioning policy making and communications within a shared ‘behaviour change strategy cycle’, and approaching strategy planning (top down) and communications planning (bottom up) from a coordinated perspective.
The speakers were Alex Oliver, who’s recently joined the IIPS from the Cabinet Office, who made the connections between behaviour change and Whitehall’s ‘Public Service Agreements’, and BMRB’s Helen Angle, who’s an expert at campaign evaluation.
In their presentations, they identified five key challenges or ‘gaps’ faced by both ‘sides’ of the cycle: the gap within and between policy areas, the gap between high level strategy and implementation, the gap between success factors and evaluation measures; the gap between government action and public reaction; and the gap between incremental insight and strategy.
Bridging the gaps is hard but not impossible. Success requires, among other things, internal coherence, cross-policy alignment, and agreement about common success factors. The panellists, Sam Davis of the Central Office of Information, and Dr. David Halpern of the Institute for Government suggested that behaviour change theory informs both halves of the strategy cycle. And picking up one thought from the audience comments: that the government’s behaviour change efforts should be linked, explicitly, to a broader project of political and social renewal.
For more information about IIPS events, please visit the IIPS website.