Report published at the World Government Summit

Traditional policymaking assumes that people always make decisions for the common good, whereas behavioural insights give them social, psychological and emotional incentives to do so.

Behavioural interventions address “cognitive biases,” which are natural tendencies in some people to ignore rules, regulations, incentives and penalties - even when this goes against their self-interest. For example, the optimism bias could lead people to continue consuming unhealthy food even when they have enough information to believe that it might affect their health. Behavioural interventions can take the form of “nudges”; tools that influence peoples’ decisions without imposing restrictions or altering their incentives, thus preserving their freedom of choice.

GCC countries want to achieve environmental sustainability.

They are considering strategies to reduce household consumption of electricity, gas and water, and engage people in national recycling programs.

Using behavioural interventions on these behaviours has been shown to be effective in other countries. Egypt’s National Initiative for Energy Conservation achieved a 3.7% electricity demand reduction in two months by applying a behavioural insights communication campaign linking consumption rates to national pride and providing energy efficiency tips. In China, by leveraging peer pressure and the connotation of correct waste sorting to a higher IQ, the China Environment Protection Agency achieved 89% of waste recycled in the designated categories.
Improving national health levels is also high on GCC states’ agendas. The report provides examples of how behavioural interventions can instill healthy lifestyle habits in citizens by encouraging them to eat healthy food and exercise more. For instance, the Singapore Health Promotion Board launched a social media campaign – the National Steps Challenge - to encourage adults to walk 10,000 steps a day, changing the behaviour of 8.8% of the inactive population.

Global practice in implementing behavioural insights has highlighted the success of such initiatives across the world. In 2010, the U.K. Government became the first country to set up a dedicated team to apply behavioural insights in policymaking. Since then, many other countries have followed.

The report recommends that GCC governments establish a dedicated and centralised unit to commission interventions, and includes further recommendations on the setup and governance of such a unit.  

About the research

Published at the , the report was developed in collaboration with the , the leading think tank for , part of the network, is titled “Triggering change in the GCC through behaviors insights: an innovative approach to effective policymaking,” and focuses on how governments can design behavioural interventions to support policy objectives.

The report identifies key objectives in GCC countries’ national plans and visions where the behavioural approach could complement conventional policymaking. This is especially clear in areas such as achieving environmental sustainability, improving national health, ensuring tax compliance, etc.

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Triggering change in the GCC through behavioural insights:
an innovative approach to effective policymaking