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BIT at the World Economic Forum

19th Nov 2014

Our CEO, David Halpern, spent last week at the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum now has a Council focused on behaviour, chaired by David and Eldar Shafir (a Princeton professor and co-author of the recent book Scarcity). David sent back this blog post:

Going to Dubai last week was my first experience of a large WEF event. For those who haven’t been, it is an unusual gathering – attended by ex-world leaders, CEOs, heads of charitable foundations and a wide variety of leading thinkers from across the world. The event comprises a mixture of lectures and small informal discussions, known as Councils. This year, the organisers encouraged attendees to focus more on hard impacts, and not just networking, important though this might be. WEF’s strength is its capacity to bring together people from very different backgrounds who would otherwise be unlikely to meet, discussing innovative solutions to the world’s challenges.

We agreed three priorities:

To increase awareness and understanding of behavioural insights amongst the WEF community.

    • We will write a behavioural insights prospectus. There’s no great appetite to write a great tome, but it would be helpful to have a short document that makes the case for behavioural insights and explains what the ‘Council’ plans to do.
    • WEF will run demonstration experiments at its events. We’ve found that live experiments (with live results) excite people and open their minds. There were more than 1,000 senior people from across the world at the Dubai event. This would have been more than enough for an interesting randomised trial. WEF plans to run experiments at future events, websites and surveys. This could be in the form of split sample surveys on growth with different anchors (which we’ve used); to the now-famous ideas42 change blindness demonstration; to something on the layout of food or drink or even flows through different doors, taking different paths driven by visual cues etc.

To highlight the most impressive behavioural insights findings.

    • We started to generate a list of examples under three broad categories: inclusive growth; healthy & safe communities; and families & parenting.
    • To work on a handful of ‘next generation’ interventions of interest to Council members. These include:
      • On inclusive growth: Rainy day savings and money management platforms for low income groups – of interest to several of us, including Eldar and me.
      • On healthy & safe communities: The use of sport and positive role modelling with respect to violence (especially violence against women).
      • On parenting & families: Probably the most left-field proposal was to prompt parents to talk to their kids by printing messages on nappies.

If you want to learn more about the WEF group on behaviour contact Hala Hanna.