Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Australian Nudge Unit

The BBC reported in 2012 that the UK Nudge Unit was working with the government of New South Wales in Australia. That collaboration now seems to be bearing fruit - from The Herald:

"About 18 months ago, the NSW Premier's department quietly set up a small team with a unique brief. It was dubbed the "nudge" unit because its goal was to influence people's behaviour using insights drawn from economics and psychology rather than regulation and red tape.
Some of them have been as simple as a re-worded letter or a less complicated hospital form. But the results have been impressive. Changes made to penalty notices have resulted in an extra $10 million in fines being paid on time and a big fall in driving licence suspensions. In another trial, simplifying the way patients can opt to use private health insurance while in a public hospital will deliver $11 million in additional revenue and cost savings that can be deployed to front-line services.

Take the NSW nudge unit's project to increase payment rates for taxes, fines and debts. New penalty notices introduced a clear call to action and a prominent stamp with the words "Pay Now". Language and colour was used to escalate the tone of the communications - the text was shifted from blue to red as people moved further into an enforcement action and words changed from "amount owed" to "you owe". The new penalty notices also played on the human bias to conform by adding a factual statement such as "more than eight out of 10 people pay their land tax on time, making you one of a small minority who has required us to take further action". Payments made in response to the newly drafted enforcement order were 3.1 percentage points higher than for the existing one.
"We've already achieved some good results,'' Premier Mike Baird says. ''But the use of behavioural insights in government has the potential to tackle bigger and more complex social problems and help transform the customer experience across the public sector."

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