Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh


Government & Civil Society 

Type of Investment


Project Stage


Length of Investment

2016 to present


Investment Overview

A $3.75 million grant to deliver a series of randomised controlled, behavioural-based trials focused on improved tax compliance, and corresponding capacity building of local civil servants, in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Indonesia and the Philippines.


The Development Challenge

Development assistance alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of the developing world. Even with foreign aid, countries face substantial funding gaps across key sectors like education and healthcare. For instance, many countries only reach one third of the roughly $90 per capita in health spending needed to achieve universal coverage of essential health services. Furthermore, there is also a broader need for cost-effective interventions that leverage the rich literature of behavioural insights.


The Innovation

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) employs an approach called TEST (Target, Explore, Solution, Trial) that is underpinned by the philosophy of behavioural science, which proposes that small changes to public service delivery, which fit with human decision-making tendencies (e.g. default bias), can have significant and positive impacts on behaviour and on the performance of services and programmes. To date, BIT has worked with around 20 governments outside the UK, including training teams in Australia and Singapore to run trials on their own, and has developed the TEST approach in over 500 projects.


Our Investment

GIF’s $3.75 million grant will help deliver a series of randomised controlled, behavioural-based trials primarily focused on improved tax compliance, and corresponding capacity building of local civil servants.


Investment Objective

To partner with government agencies in multiple countries to design behavioural interventions which contribute to public policy goals, including tax compliance, and to evaluate them through randomised controlled trials, as well as building government capacity to apply behavioural science to policy problems.


Why we invested

High potential for leveraged impact – behavioural approaches are generally cost-effective, can frequently generate significant impact, and could be scaled up from initial samples of thousands to reach millions.

Co-creation with implementing partners during several parts of the TEST approach increases chances of buy-in by governments and civil servants.


BIT in numbers

24 trials

Initiated with twelve partners across three different countries


Additional tax returns submitted in Indonesia thanks to a BIT intervention


Behavioural Insights Team Impact Brief

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has expanded from a small unit originally formed inside the UK government to become an independent entity working across 30+ countries. It works with governments, local authorities, businesses, and charities to generate and apply behavioural insights that inform policy, improve public services, and deliver positive results for people and communities. There is a large body of evidence showing that people suffer from numerous cognitive biases, such as default bias, that behavioural insights can help overcome. To that effect, BIT employs an approach called TESTS (Target, Explore, Solution, Trial, Scale) to run projects with partners. Their evaluations show that small and often low-cost changes to public service delivery that fit with such human decision-making tendencies can significantly impact on people’s behaviours and the performance of services and programmes.

Use of GIF Funds

GIF funding enables BIT to work with partners in Guatemala, Bangladesh, and Indonesia to institutionalise a behavioural insights approach to drive efficiency across their services and programmes. These partnerships are focused on collaboratively designing and testing behavioural interventions through a series of randomised controlled trials in tax, education, and other sectors. This contributes to the evidence base on behaviourally informed policies and informs scaling of the most effective nudges. Most importantly, it equips government partners to use behavioural design and evaluation methods to inform programme design going forward.


Partner with government agencies in multiple countries to design behavioural interventions which contribute to public policy goals, including tax compliance, and evaluate them through randomised controlled trials, as well as building government capacity to apply behavioural science to policy problems.

  1. Short-run: Well-designed and well-executed trials related to increasing tax compliance in at least 3 developing countries that have the potential to both increase revenue and lead to learning for government partners. For non-tax trials, similar short-term benefits in non-tax policy areas are expected.

  2. Long-run: Developing country governments develop their capacity to independently design and execute rigorous trials based on behavioural principles, and to broadly support evidence-based interventions. BIT captures long-term trajectories of interventions that have shown positive results in trials to provide insights on subsequent scaling.

Impact to Date

BIT has initiated 24 trials with twelve partners across Guatemala, Bangladesh, and Indonesia and completed 17 thereof to date. Below are examples of trials with positive results across all three regions.

In Indonesia, BIT worked with the tax administration office, DJP, to test different email interventions to encourage early filing rates. The most effective intervention was a ‘Planning’ email, that highlighted early filing to avoid problems and included a link to nominate a filing date and then receive email reminders before their selected date. It led to a 2.1 percentage point increase in early filing and a 1.1 percentage point increase in overall filing. The email was subsequently scaled to 11 million taxpayers, meaning an estimated extra 133,000 tax returns were submitted, and more than 200,000 tax returns were estimated to have been submitted earlier than they would otherwise have been.

In Guatemala, BIT partnered with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop and test ‘rules of thumb’ to improve school management. The intervention consisted of posters with ‘rules of thumb’ guidance on management practices for principals, an implementation checklist, and a session with the MoE explaining this intervention and rationale behind it. The results show increased frequency and quality of school management practices by principals such as planning sessions and class observation, as well as increased teacher motivation.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, BIT conducted a trial in partnership with BRAC aimed at encouraging active by-standing to reduce sexual harassment on buses. The intervention consisted of behaviourally informed posters on buses with infographics on simple steps that could be safely taken to intervene when sexual harassment occurs. Baseline data showed wide-spread sexual harassment (60% of bus trips had at least 1 observed incident) and highlighted the “intention-action gap” for bystander intervention (90% reported they would take some action, but action was observed only in 1 out of 5 incidents). The poster had positive impacts on attitudes with 10% more passengers disagreeing with statements that justify sexual harassment, but did not translate into increased active by-standing. A reduction in incidents was recorded.

In terms of capacity-building, BIT has collaborated closely with its in-country partners on the implementations of trials to strengthen their ability to initiate and implement such behavioural projects themselves. BIT also carried out several workshops, capacity-building events and more regular learning sessions for public servants. So far, five trials have been proposed and spearheaded by partners with limited support by BIT.