Modern societies are confronted with numerous major challenges, such as social conflict, climate change, public health issues, inequality and unethical behaviors in the private and public sector. Modern societies are built on public institutions, designed to address these and related societal challenges. These institutions are under severe pressure. The trust in and legitimacy of governments are among the most important issues on the societal and political agenda and improving the performance of governments has been the most prevalent policy goal in the past decades.
In order for institutions to optimally contribute to the formation of open and sustainable societies and to be able to develop solutions for societal challenges, they need to be attuned to the real behaviors of people in society at large. Although most salient policies aim to address human behaviors – ranging from such diverse issues as donor registration, healthy eating, societal integration of refugees, white collar corruption or sustainable consumptive choices – behavioral knowledge has until very recently not been institutionalized in the public sector. [read more]