Examples

 

1. Nudging towards healthy behaviors. To what extent and in which contexts can individuals be nudged towards more sustainable and/or healthy behavior?

Within the multidisciplinary WINK TOP NWO project, UU scholars from psychology (De Ridder), philosophy (Van den Hoven) and public administration (Schillemans) are collaborating on policy arrangements that can be employed to gently steer individuals in acting upon their intentions for healthier behavior. The project addresses the psychological issues involved in this question (e.g., awareness of arrangements, concordance with personals goals) as well as the ethical questions (autonomous decision making and patronizing) and issues related to the implementation of behavioral insights into public policy making. Within the project we collaborate with authoritative stakeholders (RIVM, WRR, NSOB, RVS) and the Utrecht City Council that has endorsed the relevance and importance of this approach by installing a Living Lab in the underprivileged area Kanaleneiland  where UU scholars and UU city council officials collaborate to investigate and implement new policies that take into account behavioral insights. (PI D. de Ridder).

 

2. Effective communication. How can governmental communication be more comprehensible?

Governments and governmental agencies assume citizens to be (digitally) literate. However, even in a country as the Netherlands many citizens are functionally illiterate (‘laaggeletterdheid’). Governmental policies then fail to work because crucial communications are ineffective, for instance in the area of health care (donor registration, health campaigns). A combination of psychological, organizational and linguistic insights greatly improves governmental communication. This begins with (tools for) comprehensible language for the intended groups, but includes issues of framing and persuasion. In this research, we benefit from proven partnerships with parties outside academia, such as the Network Comprehensible Government (Netwerk Begrijpelijke Overheid), representing the Dutch government and the TaalUnie (PI H. Hoeken).

 

3. Reducing aggression. How can we reduce aggression against public service workers in hospitals and other public institutions?

Public service workers, such as social workers and teachers, are often confronted with aggressive citizens. This ranges from yelling and death threats to physical attacks. Facing aggressive citizens can have serious ramifications for public service workers including increased burnout, increased absenteeism and reduced wellbeing. In this project we adopt an interdisciplinary approach: combining insights from public administration and behavioral science to determine the impact of different types of citizen aggression on the job outcomes of public service workers, and to analyze how aggression and its effects can be lowered. This is tested via field experiments. Collaboration with various Dutch hospitals, Stichting IZZ, and Ministries. (PI L. Tummers).

 

4. Influencing behavior of companies. How can we ascertain that companies do not harm the public interest?

In order to safeguard public interests, it is sometimes desirable that the Dutch government influence companies' behavior. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has set up the Behavioral Insights Team EZ (BIT EZ). This team supports policy departments in the application of behavioral science knowledge in policy, behavior analysis to policy experiments. The literature in this area, however, offers particular insights into behavior of individuals, while EZ policy mainly has to do with businesses. Therefore this study brings academic and practical knowledge together to determine the extent to which behavioral insights are applicable to the conduct of business. Collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, EY, UU (PI S. Rosenkranz).

 

5. Innovating public sector accountability. How can public sector accountability be less burdensome and can it more effectively stimulate institutional decision-making?

Accountability is of increasing importance in a public sector in which most tasks are performed by (partially) autonomous organizations. In recent years, more and more resources are invested in accountability. Unfortunately, however, this has not led to noticeable increases in performance. On the contrary, practical experience documents a plethora of accountability-failures. It is often time-consuming and expensive, provokes strategic reactions by managers and professionals, and easily harms their motivation. Collaboration with the Supreme Court of Audit, Stichting Visitatie Woningcorporaties Nederland, Handvestgroep Publiek Verantwoorden, European Court of Audit, UU (PI T. Schillemans).

 

6. Innovating the Dutch welfare system. How can the existing welfare system be improved and more effectively stimulate reintegration?

The current setup of Dutch social assistance (bijstand) resembles an approach found in standard economic theory: rational, self-interested decision-makers must be coerced to perform tasks. Accordingly, punitive sanctions are chosen as an incentive to induce compliance among welfare claimants. Yet, actors may be subject to behavioral biases. We argue that by ignoring these biases the present approach is unlikely to be optimal. To develop an alternative incentive system we enrich existing theory with relevant behavioral insights, and test empirically in a large field experiment whether a behaviorally informed solution improves reintegration in to the labor market and increases satisfaction of all involved stakeholder. State Secretary Klijnsma of Social Affairs and Employment in consultation with the council of Utrecht, Groningen, Tilburg and Wageningen allowed municipalities to experiment for two years with different ways of implementation of assistance rules. Collaboration with the municipality of Utrecht, UU (PI S. Rosenkranz).