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The Behavioural Science Public Health Network Conference 2020

19.02.2020

HRW Shift were proud to participate and present in the Behavioural Science and Public Health Network’s Annual conference in Derby this year. The BSPHN conference unites behavioural science practitioners working toward improving people’s health for a day of stimulating conversations, insight sharing across sectors and inspiring talks from some of the most influential theorists in the field.

The highlight of the day was presenting our prize-winning abstract on the intention-action gap and vaccine uptake. Katy Irving, Global Head of Behavioural Science at HRW, demonstrated how a behavioural lens can defy traditional marketing wisdom and initial hypotheses to reveal unexpected insights for our clients. Perhaps most importantly, Katy’s talk walked us through how these insights can generate evidence-based recommendations for how to ‘shift’ behaviour.

One of the most exciting features of this conference is that the goal of ‘improving health’ brings together behavioural scientists working in a wide spectrum of settings. It was invigorating to hear from colleagues in policy, academia and the third sector about how behavioural science is used in their roles, and to share learnings about where various behavioural frameworks have worked best. It is a testament to the robustness and utility of the tools and principles of behavioural science that they can be applied meaningfully to solving such a staggering variety of problems.

 

Aside from this inspiration, the presentations, panels and posters brought to the fore some resonant takeaways for our team:

1. Behaviours never occur a vacuum. On the contrary, behaviours are part of complex systems that operate on personal, interpersonal, group and societal levels. Given this, ‘systems-level thinking’ is essential to get to grips with even the smallest behaviours – the image below was shared by Professor Susan Michie, Director of University College London’s Centre for Behaviour Change, and begins to map the cascading dependencies and relations behind the seemingly simple behaviour of making a cup of tea. When doing behavioural analysis, then, one of the biggest challenges is to avoid honing in to closely to a small part of the system. Thankfully, we have several frameworks at our disposal to help us keep complexity at play. As Professor Michie puts it, part of the beauty of our behaviour change models are that they “impose a structure to help people think about complexity”.

2. The importance of multidisciplinary expertise. Having acknowledged that behaviour operates in complex systems, it is no surprise that nuanced behavioural analysis demands multi-disciplinary collaboration. Overcommitment to any one theoretical specialism can ultimately paint only a partial picture of the problem and leads us to overlook useful, unexpected solutions. Selfishly we were glad to hear others talking about this; our HRW Shift team brings together expertise from behavioural economics, health psychology, social cognition, neurolinguistic programming, forensic psychology, philosophy, and sociology. We have certainly seen and reaped the benefits how a multi-disciplinary behavioural science team deepens our understanding and expands the horizons of recommendations we can offer.

3. The value of behavioural analysis, beyond behaviour change. Another major focus of the day was grappling with how to consider and track the impacts of behavioural science. When we think about the impact of behavioural analysis our focus is usually on the extent to which we see changes in the target behaviour – and for good reason! However, Dr Julie Bailey, that this focus on the ‘end-goal’ leads us to overlook and undersell the value of what is achieved during the process of that analysis. Undertaking behavioural analysis brings diverse and sometimes silo-ed stakeholders together to develop a shared understanding and get buy-in for the solutions. Managing to get stakeholders singing from the same hymn sheet is no small feat, and this feedback from the members of the network was an important reminder that the impact of behavioural analysis goes beyond behaviour change alone.

All in all, three of us from the team (Katy, John and I) had a great day, with plenty of opportunities to network with fellow practitioners and see Derby in the sunshine. For more information about our behavioural science expertise and how it can help you, get in touch.

By Emma Neville, Behavioural Science Analyst, HRW Shift

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