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Press release

Update from BIT and David Halpern

18th Jun 2024

David Halpern, the Founding Director and President of the Behavioural Insights Team will be moving on from his role and the team from July 31st 2024.

It is a big moment for the team. David has led BIT from its inception in 10 Downing Street in 2010, through its growth and transition to a 250 person social purpose company that has conducted work in more than 75 countries across the world.

He leaves the team with the most extensive forward work program it has ever had. We are pleased to announce that David will retain a connection to the team as President Emeritus, and will continue to have close links with the team in areas of joint interest. 

David Halpern said:

After 14 wonderful and exciting years at the Behavioural Insight Team – the original ‘Nudge Unit’ – this felt like the right moment to move forward with new challenges. I take great comfort knowing the team is in good shape, with wonderful talented colleagues, and with secure, social purpose ownership. 

The team has been pioneer in applying behavioural science to a vast range of social and economic policy challenges. Over the last 14 years, BIT has conducted more than 1,000 interventions and studies across the world. Its outsized social impact has ranged from interventions to help people get back to work faster – boosting their confidence and income while saving on welfare bills (replicated in multiple countries), to the reintegration of child combatants, to the design of the famous sugar levy. The team has also been a pioneer and model for the application of more robust empirical, and experimental, approaches to government and public services. The team has surely lived up to our great friend Richard Thaler’s challenge to ‘nudge for good’!

There are too many people to thank in this extraordinary, and continuing journey. This includes our talented staff and colleagues, from the original ex-PMSU staff from the early days, to the amazing blend of researcher-public service-entrepreneurs that come to the team over the years. Equal thanks go to the many wonderful partners that the team has been able to work with over the years, including Cass Sunstein, Danny Kahneman, Iris Bohnet and many others, and I hope will continue to do so for years to come. I should particularly thank the Premiers, Ministers, public servants and funders from many countries who have backed the team and made its work possible, including within the UK the critical support of a succession of Cabinet Secretaries, including Lord Gus O’Donnell, and late, great Lord Jeremy Heywood.

People have sometimes joked about why we called it a team, but it is a decision I’ve never regretted. Great organisations and social projects are teams. However clever we think we are, we’re smarter and better working with others, and with common purpose. The team, with our partners, can be proud of what we have achieved together. 

There are many more challenges to take on, including new and emerging ones. It is a vibrant field that is still young, alloying with new capabilities such as AI. So if you are a young aspiring behavioural scientist, public servant, or social entrepreneur – don’t worry, there is much work still to do – and the best is surely yet to come!

Ed Richards, Nesta Chair, said:

David has led BIT over many years during which it has developed it to be the impressive global business that it is today.  As a commercial organisation that has an authentic central purpose to improve people’s lives BIT is very unusual and David’s vision and commitment have been a driving force behind this.  David’s enthusiasm for showing the world the benefits of behavioural science has not just helped to build BIT but has also had a significant impact on the field and its wider role.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how David continues this work beyond BIT and I speak for everyone when I say that we are delighted that we will retain close links with him through his role as President Emeritus.”

Rachel Coyle, BIT Global MD, said:

David has given an enormous amount to BIT over the past 14 years. He’s taken the team from an idea to a small government skunkworks to a flourishing international social enterprise. He’s inspired generations of behavioural scientists inside and outside of BIT, and has been a major catalyst for driving evidence-based government. He’s also great fun to work with – a sharp and creative thinker who challenges us to approach problems in new ways, with an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place. David will be sadly missed in our day-to-day at BIT, but we’re thrilled he’s keeping a connection to the team through the President Emeritus role. We wish him all the best for his next chapter, and look forward to staying in touch.

Ravi Gurumurthy, Nesta Group CEO, said: 

I am deeply grateful to David for the impact he has created, the innovation he has propelled, and the team he has developed. David has built a world-class research and consulting organisation driven by social purpose and dedicated to some of society’s biggest challenges. He helped pioneer the focus on evidence and evaluation now seen across the public, private and third sectors. In the Nudge Unit and at BIT he demonstrated that rigour can be done with speed – and that such insight is invaluable for our most pressing policy questions. David’s values and attributes – a relentless focus on social purpose, a restless desire to make a difference, and a deep commitment to evidence and innovation – are held steadfast across BIT. It is a large part of what makes BIT such a unique and special organisation. I wish David all the best, and look forward to partnering on big challenges to come.

About the Behavioural Insights Team

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is one of the world’s leading behavioural science consultancies, working around the world to improve people’s lives.

BIT works in partnership with governments, local authorities, businesses and NGOs in over 30 countries, often using simple changes to tackle major policy problems and deliver improved public services and social outcomes.

BIT was established by the UK government in 2010. In 2014 it became an independent social purpose company, part owned by the Cabinet Office and innovation agency Nesta, and since 2021 has been entirely owned by Nesta.

For more information on our work and our team visit and follow us on LinkedIn, X, Instagram, YouTube and Medium.