Roundtable: Using "Nudges" and Low-Cost Evaluation in City Government: Practitioner Perspectives
(Public and Non-Profit Management and Finance)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 6 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Lindsay Moore, The Behavioral Insights Team
Moderator:  Lindsay Moore, Behavioral Insights Team
Speakers:  Brendan J. Babb, City of Anchorage, Alaska, Lindsey Maser, City of Portland, Oregon and Cindi Eberhardt, City of Scottsdale, Arizona

Until recently, the term “behavioral science” was more likely to show up in an academic journal than on an agenda at your local City Hall. But the last several years have brought a change. With the rising profile of “nudge theory”, there is growing recognition that the insights generated by behavioral researchers -- psychologists, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and more -- can be incredibly powerful tools for practitioners and policymakers. And the value isn’t just theoretical. Cities around the world are putting those tools into practice, designing and testing nudges to boost payment of back taxes, recruit a more diverse police force, and improve trash collection, among other things. At the same time, the evaluation methods associated with behavioral insights-- typically randomized controlled trials based on existing systems for data collection-- are bringing rigorous impact assessment within reach in more settings, even when resources and capacity are limited.

These tools are among the most important in a city’s innovation toolbox, but for all their promise, applying them can be easier said than done. This roundtable therefore brings together four city practitioners who have gone through the process,from identifying opportunities through designing interventions and testing results. The featured practitioners have tackled a variety of issues, and have taken a range of approaches to operationalizing this work, creating sustainable capacity, and applying their findings at scale. They will discuss how they’ve done it, what they’ve learned, and what they’re targeting as a next step. The discussion will yield valuable insight into the process of applying research to practice, and specific lessons around the application of behavioral science and low-cost evaluation in city government.

The roundtable will be moderated by the Behavioral Insights Team, or BIT. BIT began as the “nudge unit” of the U.K. government, and has since developed into a social purpose company that helps governments and other social sector actors develop and evaluate ideas for improving their services. Over the past three years, BIT has launched 99 experiments in 37 U.S. cities as part of the What Works Cities program (supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies), which supported each of the roundtable participants in their initial behavioral insights work.