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The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) — Impact Briefs

Introduction

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has spun out from a small unit originally formed inside the UK government into 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 programs.

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 efficiencies 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.

Objectives

Partner with government agencies in multiple countries to design behavioural interventions which contribute to public policy goals, including tax compliance, evaluate them through randomized controlled trials and build 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.

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 letter from as well as 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, and lead to 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, and 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, however did not translate into increased active by-standing. A reduction in incidents was recorded.

On the capacity building aspects, 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.