Skip to content

Press release: new $1m partnership between the Behavioural Insights Team and Harvard

7th Aug 2014

Press release: new $1m partnership between the Behavioural Insights Team and Harvard

A new partnership has been established by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the UK and the Behavioural Insights Group (BIG) at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The partnership is supported by a grant from the Sloan Foundation.

The partnership will extend the BIT’s access to cutting edge thinking and research from Harvard and other academic institutions, while academics affiliated with Harvard’s BIG and other leading institutions will gain the opportunity to see their ideas brought to the field in the real world of government policy.

There are two main objectives to this partnership:

(1) To create a network of academics across the world dedicated to improving knowledge exchange and help put in place behavioural insights interventions. There will be a focus on linking world class academics with public policymakers, including bringing high potential PhD scholars from North America and elsewhere to work in the UK with BIT in London, and ensuring that BIT’s expertise can be drawn upon by scholars in the US. This network will allow findings from behavioural insights practitioners around the world to be shared more widely and for randomised controlled trials to be made more rigorous and robust as develop our understanding of human behaviour.

(2) To host regular conferences and exchanges, bringing together practitioners from around the world interested in applying behavioural insights to public policy challenges. The first of these conferences will be hosted by Harvard this October. The second will be hosted by the Behavioural Insights Team in Summer 2015.

The Sloan Foundation grant will be for a period of three years.

David Halpern, Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, said:

“We are delighted to cement what is already a strong and growing relationship between the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK and the Behavioural Insights Group at Harvard. This is a great example of how we can bridge the gap between academia and policymaking, helping us to draw on Harvard’s world class expertise in the field of behavioural insights”.

Max Bazerman, Co-Director of the Behavioural Insights Group at Harvard, said:

“The partnership between the Behavioural Insights Team and the Behavioural Insights Group will bring together world class academics with world class practitioners. With this partnership in place, we will be able to ensure that policymakers and academics from around the world who are interested in applying behavioural insights will be able to learn from the wealth of experience that both groups have to offer”.

Richard Thaler, Co-Author of Nudge and Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics at the Chicago Booth School of Business, and long-time academic advisor to the Behavioural Insights Team said:

“Behavioural approaches are starting have a deep impact on policy across the world – with the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team leading the way. The Sloan grant and this collaboration will help the spread of ‘nudge-style’ approaches still further, and assure that the tests the team runs are conducted with the most rigorous methods available.”

Grant Shapps, Cabinet Office Minister in the UK Government, said:

“While ‘Nudge’ theory was founded in the US, it’s been the British government that has taken behavioural insights from concept to daily use in government, public life and beyond.

“This is a great two-way transatlantic tie-up which will enable world class academics to work with UK policymakers who have been implementing a wide range of nudge policy. The UK/USA work will enable us to apply behavioural science to solve yet more public policy problems, thereby making a significant and positive difference to people’s lives in both countries.”

Notes to Editors

The UK’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is regarded as the world leader in the application of behavioural science to public policy problems. Formed in 2010 by the Coalition Government to ‘support people to make better choices for themselves’ its impacts have included getting people back to work faster; speeding up the payment of £100s millions in unpaid tax; increasing organ donation; supporting growth; reducing medical errors; and encouraging giving. In early 2014, BIT became a social purpose company owned by the Cabinet Office, Nesta, and employees.

In recent years, Harvard has established an outstanding cross-disciplinary group of academic experts in behavioural science including Professor Cass Sunstein (co-author of Nudge and President Obama’s First Term ‘Regulatory Tsar’); Professor David Laibson (Professor of Economics); and Professor Max Bazerman (Havard Business School). Harvard have recently brought together their expertise in newly founded Behavioural Insights Group (BIG).

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation was founded in 1934 by the then CEO of General Motors. The foundation believes that a carefully reasoned and systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all. The Foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economic performance

For further details please contact: at BIT at Harvard