Learning about Behavioral Economics from New Zealand

Friday, February 12, 2016 | By

Jamie Kimmel has posted a great discussion on The Misbehaving Blog about behavioral economics and environmentalism in New Zealand.  New Zealanders are very environmentally conscious, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into acting on that belief.

“Many governments and organizations approach environmentalism through the idea that people need to be convinced to be environmental. While this concept makes intuitive sense (e.g. “if we tell more people about the benefits of recycling, then more people would actually do it”), it doesn’t actually accord with most Western-centric evidence.”

The blog post explores nudges that are used in New Zealand to help people make choices that are in sync with their beliefs.

“Likely hoping to nudge their rate upward, I spotted the classic land fill nudge in Auckland:

Behavioral economics nudge - New Zealand

This nudge works in two ways:

  1. It catches people’s limited attention through a novel visual design, as well as a re-labeling of something traditionally known as “trash” or “waste.”
  2. It increases people’s willpower to recycle by making the consequences of not recycling more salient.”

Your nonprofit’s clients want to save for the future or take steps to improve their economic position today, but many times it is hard to act on that belief.  What are ways you can catch people’s limited attention?  Outcome Tracker allows you to send messages directly to your clients’ smartphones, which is one avenue to provide nudges and encouragement.  What are other tactics you can use?  It’s a challenging task, as Kimmel summarizes at the end of the post:

“Overall, though, my biggest takeaway was a broad reminder that preferences and intentions are completely separate from actions. That is, what people say they’ll do is not always the same as what they actually do. And yes, that principle even applies to one of the most environmentally-conscious places on Earth.”

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