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Secure Communities Forum: Behavioural Insights Can Assist Governments in the Post-Pandemic World

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The Secure Communities Forum, a global collaboration of security professionals, has convened a leading panel of experts to discuss how behavioural science can impact positive social cohesion, build on the concept of positive citizenship, and encourage positive individual behaviours. The virtual event was attended by 134 people from 18 countries.

The Secure Communities Forum convened the webinar in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Governments and law enforcement agencies have used behavioural science to encourage adherence to public health measures like social distancing and mask-wearing.

Lindsay Juarez, Director at Irrational Labs, USA, opened the session, offering the view that we assume humans are rational, which is not the case. She said: “Behavioural science is about setting people up for success and breaking through the noise. Information isn't enough to change behaviour, the decision-making context matters.

“People don’t always act in their own long-term best interests, but we can nudge them in the right direction. In tackling the spread of misinformation, we’ve found that when we let people know, for example, that they’re about to share a social media post with unverified information, it reduces the number of times it is liked and shared.”

Governments have been making extensive use of “nudge” initiatives during the pandemic, designed to encourage positive participation in society without significant interference in the individual decision-making process.

Ed Bradon, Director of Home Affairs, Security, and International Development at the United Kingdom Behavioural Insights Team offered insights from an intervention programme in New Zealand. He said: “We looked at how we can tweak the environment, nudging people toward the right behaviour. We simplified the language so that it’s understandable by those with a reading age of nine, we made headings bigger and we appealed to their sense of reciprocity. This reduced non-attendance at court from 16% to 12%, a small but encouraging improvement.”

Sabrina Ng, Deputy Director of the Behavioural Insights Unit, Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs, brings over seven years of experience in behavioural science from her work in the Ministry. She outlined a case study pertaining to nudging traffic offenders at various time points of their journey with the Traffic Police: “A clear call-to-action, and listing step-by-step instructions to submit driver’s particulars online raised online submissions over paper ones by 10%, reducing man hours in processing time and the need for hard copies.”

Abdulrahman Al Mansouri, Director of the Executive Office in the Department of Behavioural Rewards, UAE Ministry of Possibilities, offered an in-depth perspective from his experiences in the UAE, where 30 key workers in government and private sectors have been trained in behavioural science and economics so they can incorporate those principles into their work.

He said: “The Ministry of Possibility’s National Behavioural Rewards Programme is based on four pillars: empowering individuals; supporting families; mobilising communities; and uplifting the nation. It has a variety of accelerators designed to encourage good nutrition, encouraging volunteering, and legislation. Citizens who engage positively by ordering healthy food or volunteering can earn Danat points on our recently launched mobile application, Fazaa Behaviours, which can be redeemed with more than 120 partner organizations.”

Closing the session, the speakers acknowledged that while behavioural science is not a silver bullet, it can play a crucial role in promoting a healthy, proactive, and engaged society - and especially in encouraging public health measures during the pandemic.

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