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BIT Policy School: How to Build Capabilities in Public Service, Drawing on Behavioural Insights

28th Nov 2014

Last week, we completed another BIT Policy School. Based on a concept that our Managing Director, Owain Service, devised with Cabinet Office colleagues when BIT was still part of the government, BIT Policy School isn’t a normal training course.

It’s an intensive, 3 day programme that takes participants through a real life behavioural insights policy problem.

Participants are set the challenge of solving the problem, drawing on BIT’s methodology. But there are various elements of BIT Policy School that make it particularly engaging and challenging. And many of these elements are themselves good examples of how we draw on ideas from behavioural science to shape how we do things differently from other organisations.

First of all, it’s a competition. Participants are split in to teams. And the teams compete against each other to come up with the best solution.

Second, the judges are individuals that the participants respect and want to impress. In this case Edward Troup (Second Permanent Secretary of HMRC, was joined by David Halpern, our CEO, to determine which team won. This means that BIT Policy School builds towards the final event of the programme: the final pitch to the senior panel, at which the judging is done.

Third, the training is delivered by people who actually use behavioural insights and have helped develop BIT’s methodologies. For too long, government training has been delivered by external consultants with little knowledge of real life policymaking. This is not the case during BIT Policy School.

Fourth, we run BIT Policy School in partnership with the organisation that sets the challenge that participants tackle. This helps to ensure that the organisation itself participates fully in the programme, helping to organise front-line visits and workshops with experts. And very often the organisation takes the ideas that have been generated and implements them.

We think that the ‘Policy School’ approach, which many UK government departments are now using for their own training programmes, is a great way of engaging staff and building capabilities. We’d love to hear from you if you think so too!