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During the entire Part 1 of the course you (together with your group) have to design a behavioral intervention to change a specific behavior related to the topic of your group.
Here your “problem“, one for each group. Read it and discuss it with your group.
This activity is divided in a series of steps that you have to perform in different lectures.
- Give a brief description of the context in which the behavioral intervention is going to happen (lecture 2).
- Articulate the specific behavior that you want to change as a result of the behavioral intervention (lecture 3).
- Map the decision making process and the various bottlenecks (lecture 4)
- Make a linkage between that map, the process that you’ve just identified, and some of the concepts seen during the course (lecture 5).
- Describe your behavioral intervention (lecture 7).
- Explain how you want to test the efficacy of your intervention: output measure, number of treatments, sample size, predictions and statistical analysis you intend to use (lecture 8).
To help you organize your work, we prepared a Google Spreadsheet where each group will work on their answers in their dedicated column. Together with your group, you have to fill in each cell once we move on with the lectures. Please make sure that the exact cell is filled in before the deadline.
- you will start working on this activity in lecture 2 and have the final presentation during lecture 9:
- this exercise is useful to prepare for answering Question 3 of the exam. In that question I will ask you to design an intervention to solve a specific problem by following the above structure;
- if you want to read more about how to design and test an experiment, you can look at the Behavioral Insights Toolkit.
- even though the steps are described in sequence, designing an intervention is an iterative process. Stay open-minded while you move along the steps of your intervention and do not fear making changes to improve your intervention.
Lecture 2: Brief description of the context
To start the Activity, each group will receive a short description of a specific problem (in Absalon).
First, reflect on the problem with your group (why this is important? what are its possible causes? what are the expected consequences?). Write down the essence and the boundaries of your problem. Provide also some “numbers” to explain why this problem is important for society.
Second, give a brief description of the context in which the intervention is going to happen. Include ‘when’ and ‘where’ the intervention will happen and ‘who is the target agent’. Describe at what level (individual, family, neighborhood,…) the target behavior should be addressed.
Note: interventions usually target those people that will directly benefit from the intervention. However, that is not always the case (e.g. kids may benefit of an health intervention, but to achieve that we have to target their parents).
Lecture 3: Behavior change desired
Articulate the specific (and measurable) behavior that you want to change as a result of the behavioral intervention.
- What is the desired outcome of the intervention?
- What specifically should it change as a result?
Identify the problem and behavior clearly. A well defined problem can increase the efficicacy of your intervention.
Lecture 4: Decision mapping and bottlenecks
Map the decision-making process: think about the different stages that people go through and how people behave. Identify various frictions or points when potential participants drop out. This activity helps you to spot bottlenecks that might hamper participation and the effect of the intervention. (e.g. is the target population inattentive to program details, or are they overwhelmed by too much information?). See example below.
Lecture 5: Relevant phenomena, principles and concepts
To design an appropriate intervention, you should exploit the knowledge you have acquired during the course. Make a linkage between the decision map, the bottlenecks and the most relevant concepts seen during the course.
Define and explain the phenomena, concepts and tools that are important for your analysis, and provide a linkage to how they fit together.
Lecture 6: Presentation and Feedback
Present the current status of your intervention and get feedback from the entire class.
Try to highlight the points you are unsure about, to get targeted feedback.
Lecture 7: Description of the intervention
What might work to overcome the problem your group is working on. Remember to:
- Focus on the specific bottleneck you have chosen before.
- Describe your behavioral intervention in detail.
- Keep it simple and avoid any unnecessary complication.
- Remember to not change to many aspects at the same time (measurability): if you change more than one thing, consider having also more than one control group, to break down the effect.
- Plan an interventions that may be scalable (the intervention must be effective and feasible).
Lecture 8: Design, plan for data analysis and predictions
Explain how you want to test the efficacy of your intervention: output measure, number of treatments, sample size, predictions and statistical analysis you intend to use.
Explain also how you plan to measure the necessary variables and how you want to gather your data.
Have in mind that testing behavioral interventions is the key step. Good policy design should use more pilots and trials to test if the intervention is working and to prevent the implementation of costly policies without generating results.
Esther Duflo stressed it is not just important what you implement but also how. We have seen that you cannot rely on abstract assumptions on human behavior. That is why it is important to test our hypotheses and run rigorous experiments. Thus, set specifis goals and measurable output for your intervention. And test, in the end, if they were reached.
Lecture 9: Final Presentation
Before the final presentation, check if the intervention makes sense. Especially if the design of your intervention targets the desired behavior change you stated in the second step.
Again, do not fear making changes to improve your intervention even at this stage.
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