Using behavioural insights to save lives

Case study
An injection of behavioural insights helped the Department of the Premier and Cabinet take out the public sector’s central agency Lifeblood Challenge
Examples for East Framework - Make it Easy, Make it Attractive, Make it Social, Make it Timely

Caption: Some early ideas to encourage donations at DPC

The WA public sector’s central agencies recently ran a Lifeblood Challenge which saw the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC) take out a close contest with the Public Sector Commission (PSC), Department of Finance and Department of Treasury.

Running from 1 August to 30 November, the early stages of the Challenge saw DPC occupying the bottom of the ladder, with only four donations. The picture was not much different at the end of October, with the lead comfortably held by PSC. By the end of November, a total of 39 donations in one month saw DPC take the lead.

So what changed that enabled DPC to hit top spot?

They put the BI into play

BI, or behavioural insights, provides an understanding of the way humans make decisions, based on evidence from the behavioural and social sciences.

DPC used some simple BI tools (and some encouragement from Dr Kim Louw from the NSW Behavioural Insights Team), to encourage staff to donate blood. This involved applying the EAST Framework to make blood donation Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely, including:

  • bringing a donation truck to DPC, reducing the time and effort it takes to donate (Easy and Timely)
  • highlighting existing rewards like free snacks (Attractive)
  • encouraging friendly competition within DPC, with a divisional leader board on the intranet (Social)
  • recognising DPC’s ‘blood donor heroes’ (Attractive and Social)
  • providing deadlines and communicating scarcity, such as ‘only a limited time left to donate’ (Attractive and `Timely)
  • giving people a small reward when they signed up to shift the benefits of donating from the obscure future, to the present (Timely)

Some of these ideas were applied in an all-staff email. In the two weeks following the email, DPC recorded 14 donations, which was almost three times the amount of donations received following an earlier email that did not apply BI principles.

The conclusion?

Next time you have a behaviour change challenge on your hands, think about how you can make the desired behaviour or action Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely.

In this case, DPC’s total donations equated to 198 lives saved. Small changes can make meaningful impacts.

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Page reviewed 16 December 2019