In September President Obama issued an executive order: use behavioral science insights to better serve the American people.
President Obama claims research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology which analyses how people actually make decisions and act on them can help create even better and more successful government policies.
Within the same week,70 mayors, city managers and others from 30 local governments in North Carolina gathered at a Sanford School workshop to learn about reaching that goal. What is behavioral science and how can it be used to achieve innovation at a local level.
The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University is one of America’s leading schools of public policy, offering undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in public policy and international development policy.
“This is the first time I have ever engaged with Duke in a meaningful way that’s not about money, let’s leverage our capital, our human capital, to improve the community we love.” said Bertha Johnson, budget and management services director for the city of Durham. The city already has a focus on innovation and she was inspired by the workshop
The local officials learned from among the best in the field.
They included Dan Ariely, professor in the Sanford School, and James B. Duke Professor of behavioral economics, and has authored three best-selling books on the topic: Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.
Bryan Sivak also addressed the crowd. He previously ran an “Idea Lab” in where government workers with good ideas were given 6 months and $10,000 to try roll them out. “The results were remarkable, a game changer, some of the best ideas…”He said.
He encouraged the workshop participants to attempt small acts of innovation on specific problems, noting such small successes build momentum and trust.