From Homo Economicus to Homo Sapiens

The World Bank published this week its flagship World Development Report entitled Mind, Society and Habit. While incorporating the science of behaviour for better development interventions is not news (think MIT JPAL and others), making it the central topic of the annual WDR certainly propels it to mainstream.

At the World Economic Forum I’ve been managing the Global Agenda Council on Behaviour – a group of some of the most renowned experts in the area, chaired by David Halpern, CEO of the UK’s Behavioural Insight Team (aka “Nudge Unit”). David wrote a blog about his impressions and the work plan that the council agreed on here.

Two of the most discussed agenda items during our meeting were: (1) the dissemination of some of the most impressive behavioural insights applied to policy, and (2) outlining the ‘next generation’ interventions – from rainy day savings and money management platforms for low income groups ; to the use of sport and positive role modeling with respect to violence (especially violence against women). A space to be watched!

One of the frontier idea discussed was related to parenting, and included a proposal to prompt parents to talk to their kids by printing messages on nappies – an idea that was received with mixed feelings by the public. For more on this, you can read the blog post of Michael Feigelson, another member of the council.

Behavioural science’s application to all sorts of policies and interventions is (and will continue to be) on the rise. And understandably so. Small, low cost tweaks with big returns on changing behaviour for the recipient’s and society’s benefits is an alluring proposition.

also published on LinkedIn 

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