Tools and Ethics for Applied Behavioural Insights: The BASIC Toolkit

Published on June 18, 2019

Behavioural insights (BI) are lessons derived from the behavioural and social sciences, including decision making, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, organisational and group behaviour. Public bodies around the world are increasingly using BI to design and implement better public policies based on evidence of the actual behaviour and biases of citizens and businesses. This toolkit provides practitioners and policy makers with a step-by-step process for analysing a policy problem, building strategies, and developing behaviourally informed interventions.


Abbreviations and acronyms
Executive summary
Introductory guide to BASIC
The BASIC Manual
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Want to understand how BASIC can help you improve policy making? Read the BASIC Brochure to get a quick overview of why BI matters to address problems faced by government and what is the process through which the behavioural aspects of a problem can be identified, scoped and addressed. This supplements the more detailed how-to manual located in the above OECD publication. 


Have you ever missed an important appointment because you had too much to do and forgot? Given up on properly filling out a public form because it was too cumbersome and hard to understand? Driven a little above the speed limit because all the other drivers were going fast as well?

These are everyday examples of how context and behavioural biases can influence decision-making.

A better understanding of human behaviour can lead to better policies. If you are looking for a more data-driven and nuanced approach to policymaking, then you should consider what actually drives the decisions and behaviours of citizens rather than relying on assumptions of how they should act.

This is exactly what behavioural insights (BI) provides. Drawing from rigorous research from behavioural economics and the behavioural sciences, BI can help public bodies understand why citizens behave as they do and pre-test which policy solutions are the most effective before implementing them at large scale. By integrating BI into policymaking, you can better anticipate the behavioural consequences of your policy and ultimately design and deliver more effective policies that can improve the welfare of citizens. 

You can start applying BI to policy now. No matter where you are in the policy cycle, policies can be improved with BI through a process that looks at Behaviours, Analysis, Strategies, Interventions, Change (BASIC). This allows you to get to the root of the policy problem, gather evidence on what works, show your support for government innovation, and ultimately improve policy outcomes. This toolkit guides policy officials through these BASIC stages to start using an inductive and experimental approach for more effective policy making.


 The BASIC Framework

BASIC Toolkit


The toolkit contains two main components: first, a guidebook that will provide you with an introduction to behaviourally informed policymaking and a brief overview of testing and implementation. This is geared towards policymakers who know the policy problem and context but have limited or even no experience with BI. Second, the BASIC manual provides approaches, proofs of concepts and details on methods for designing and implementing a behaviourally informed policy intervention.


For more information, please contact James Drummond.

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