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Political Research Exchange - PRX

On Her Majesty’s Service? The Behavioural Insights Team and its role in the Global Spread of Behavioural Change Policies

Comparative Politics
Policy Analysis
Political Psychology
Sebastian Botzem
Universität Bremen
Sebastian Botzem
Universität Bremen
Holger Strassheim
University of Bielefeld

No other country in Europe has developed and applied nudging policies to the same degree as the United Kingdom. The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), core incubator for the introduction of behavioural approaches to various policies, was established in 2010 as a government unit within the Cabinet Office and privatized in 2014. BIT is a main actor in making the UK a leading country introducing behavioural economics and psychology into a wide array of policies. Its unique organizational set-up and the unusual privatization of a government unit make BIT and interesting object of study. Moreover, BIT has not only been an arena for the development of British policies but it has also influenced developments in other countries such as Australia. High profile individuals of BIT frequently interact with many individuals on both sides of the Atlantic that are active in think tanks, academia, consultancies and government units. However, little is known about the connectedness of BIT to foreign organizations and of relationships BIT’s personnel shares with individuals in other countries. We therefore seek to shed light on the organizational and individual networks in which BIT is embedded to better understand the world-wide proliferation of behavioural change instruments and policies. More precisely, we seek to answer the following questions:
1. How can BIT’s organizational change be described and explained?
2. Which (inter)national networks were instrumental in establishing and supporting BIT; which relations were built up and promoted by BIT to ‘export’ behavioral policies?
3. How can the community of BIT employees be characterized, which career patterns are visible, which professional background dominates in BIT’s composition?
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