MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy

It is fascinating to see the convergence between behavioural economics and government policy making. The difficult question, however, is whether this is philosophy is consistent with Gov 2.0?


The messages seem mixed. On the one hand we have Empowering consumers using behavioural insights and on the other we have MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy.


In many respects there is nothing new in governments seeking to influence the behaviour of citizens. However, it is a trend that is growing and, taken to an extreme, could quite easily result in a form of 'civil totalitarianism'. Nice place to live, but don't step out of line.


Philosophically, this approach is at odds with Gov 2.0 and the emphasis on enhanced democracy. One also has to be circumspect about the ramifications of this behavioural approach for public administration.


I think the verdict is still out on the application of this methodology and I find myself questioning the ethics of the approach.


From a pragmatic perspective we also need to ask ourselves whether citizens will put up with it.


A more open approach coupled with the wise use of social media would seem a more prudent approach. Having elite 'nudge units' is, I believe, fraught with danger.

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Comment by steve davies on August 14, 2011 at 9:48pm
Oops Darron

Forgot to reply to your comment about scepticism in this post of mine.

It was not my intention to convey that. Rather, what I am suggesting is that we need to be cautious about how far we take 'influencing' behaviour. Well, actually have a discussion about how far we want to take that as a society.

If people don't then others will make that judgement for them.
Comment by steve davies on August 14, 2011 at 9:40pm
Hi Darron

I have been hugely busy the past month and so not as active as I would like. Got over my hurdles so now back in the groove.

The same happens all over. The APS innovation initiative is real enough, but same hurdles in terms of lots of people jumping in.

Unfortunately, we do not have the groundswell in Australia that our American friends have. For all the good thinking in Australia getting th momentum on the ground is the hard bit. That's partly cultural, but at public sector wise it has more to do with practice - especially of the corporate variety that to a considerable extent just does not want to get it.

The place needs more people with your expectations so they are not unrealistic at all.

All the best

Comment by Darron Passlow on August 14, 2011 at 8:55pm

Hey Steve

Where have you been?

It has been very quiet on the Gov2.0 front so I decided to go into OzLoop and see what has been happening.

Saw the APS Innovation initiative. What is going on here - real or imaginary?

Nice to be back in touch but why am I not seeing what is happening on OzLoop at least. The Govloop stuff keeps coming through but nothing from OzLoop. Was ist das!

Perhaps my expectations of social media and social interaction is too great.

I see a bit of scepticism is this post.

What is going on. Have we all lost interest in Social Media and its benefits to Open Government;


It seems like the world is pre-occupied with "self interest" and our current plight!



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