The rise of experimental government and behavioural science in policy
Over the last decade, governments in the UK, USA, Australia and around dozen other countries – now including Germany – have created units dedicated to the application of behavioural science and experimental methods. The UK’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), or ‘Nudge Unit’, set up in 2010 by the incoming Cameron Government, is perhaps the best known. BIT has conducted several hundred trials and advised on wide ranging policy issues including encouraging the prompt payment of taxes; increasing personal saving; encouraging healthier lifestyles; boosting growth; and increasing social mobility. BIT has also brought in its wake a much wider appetite for empirical (and even experimental) approaches to improving the quality of policy and practice. This empiricism is embodied by the ‘What Works’ centres and wider movement, where evidence is generated and collated, then put directly into the hands of public sector professionals and commissioners in education, healthcare, the police, etc., as well as into the hands of citizens. In 2016 in education alone, more than 100 large-scale randomised control trials had been conducted in the UK over a five-year period, involving more than 500,000 children and several thousand schools. This body of work amounts to radical and important shift in government policymaking and professional practice in the public sector. A key next step is to enhance international collaboration around the What Works movement, and to create a body of knowledge and practice that is available as a public good across countries.
5:30 p.m. Opening lecture of the academic year 2016/17
Lecture: David Halpern, Chief Executive, UK’s Behavioural Insights Team
Welcome and moderation: Helmut K. Anheier, Dean and President, Hertie School of Governance
4:30 p.m. EMPA master thesis poster exhibition and award ceremony
Before the lecture started, we held the master thesis poster exhibition, with posters by that year's graduating class of Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) students. A poster award committee consisting of Anne Fallois (Kienbaum Consultants International), Lars Wilke (EMPA Alumnus/Federal Ministry for Exonomic Cooperation and Development), Susanna Krüger (Save the Children, tbc.) and Henrik Enderlein (Hertie School) awarded the best poster.