Nothing but nudges: behavioural economics comes of age


Nudges have taken the public sector by storm, expanding all over government. One of their chief promoters around the world is confident they aren’t a passing fad, but warns against complacency and overuse.

Nudges are the next big thing in public services, and Australian public servants are among the most enthusiastic adopters of the behavioural sciences.

It’s been a bumper year for the Behavioural Insights Team, an unusual company that started life in 2010 as an appendage of the United Kingdom Cabinet Office and is now exporting nudge theory to the world. It’s set up shop in Australia, the Americas and most recently Singapore, two years since it became a business owned jointly by the UK government, staff members and Nesta, an innovation-focused charitable foundation.

Rory Gallagher, who came to work for the New South Wales government as a civil servant on secondment in 2012 to help set up Australia’s first nudge unit, is now BIT’s Asia-Pacific managing director. He still works with the NSW agency a couple of days a week and according to the report, it’s been the company’s “longest and most impactful” partnership in its brief history.

The NSW administration “took a punt, to some extent” by signing up as BIT’s first international partner, Gallagher told The Mandarin. “But they’ve done a huge amount since then; they now have a team of about a dozen people applying this across the sector.”

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