Beyond Nudge is behaviour change and demand management

Catherine Mangan and Daniel Goodwin

A three-fold change to the design and delivery of public services has been taking place over the past decade. Expectations of user choice or personalisation, the drive for localism and most particularly the implications of cuts in public spending, all increase tensions within the public service framework. One key factor underpins all of them: they require fundamental change in the expectations of individuals, communities and service providers if best use is to be made of ever diminishing resources whilst securing public well-being.

Many experts have said that the critical public service challenge of the decade is to encourage behaviour that benefits both the individual and the state, whilst preventing long term expense. They want to discourage behaviour which creates user dependency and attracts further costs. Behaviour change is vitally important, they say, because we can no longer provide the services we have always done, in the way we have always provided them. Various approaches to altering the behaviour of citizens have been outlined in a growing body of evidence.

Councils are navigating within a ‘perfect storm’ of reducing funding and increasing demands from demographic change, public expectations and the rising cost of delivering services.  We know that we cannot continue to meet the level of demand for services in social care and children’s services. Councils’ financial modelling shows that at the current levels of demand, by 2022 the council’s entire budget will not be enough to cover the costs of children’s and adults social care services.

Somehow, the level of citizen demand on services needs to be contained, and reduced. Merely changing the way in which existing services are delivered will not save enough money. For example if the current trend of people needing care continues and the use of personal budgets in their current form is extended, there is a clear risk of double pressures on the public purse, as current services such as day care continue to be provided rather than de-commissioned.

We believe that following simultaneous outcomes will be required in the future, some of which will be the responsibility of public services:

  • Reduced dependence/reliance on state to pick up the pieces.
  • Improved individual well being and resilience.
  • New and improved community/social networks.
  • Sustainability – both in terms of the environment and also the future of public services.
  • A better understanding in the community of the cost of public service and its relation to taxation.
  • A shift in the underlying expectations of individual citizens and communities of the ‘deal’ that they have with the state as to the provision of public services.

There is a need to change the contract between the individual and the state. There has been a range of reports and statements from think tanks and central government departments extolling this approach. The RSA 2020 Public Services final report provides a good summary of many of the more detailed points. It calls for a new ‘social citizenship’ approach where as citizens we should have a duty to contribute as well as a right to receive support. This takes us beyond the simplistic ‘Nudge’ theory towards a better understanding of how to navigate the challenges of the present to achieve a better future.

This blog summarises some of the key messages in:

Beyond Nudge – How can behaviour change help us to do less with less? By Daniel Goodwin and Catherine Mangan in  Staite, C. (ed.)(2013). Making sense of the future: can we develop a new model for public services? (Birmingham: University of Birmingham/INLOGOV).

Portrait of OPM staff member

Catherine Mangan is a Senior Fellow at INLOGOV.  Her interests include public sector re-design, outcomes based commissioning and behaviour change.  Prior to joining INLOGOV she managed the organisational development and change work for a not-for-profit consultancy, specialising in supporting local government; and has also worked for the Local Government Association, and as Deputy Director of the County Councils Network.  She specialises in adult social care, children’s services and partnerships.


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