fbpx Behavioral Insights and Public Policy: Curriculum | Harvard Kennedy School

illustration of scheduleThe Behavioral Insights and Public Policy online program explores how behavioral insights can be used to help construct public policies.

A distinguished teaching team comprising Harvard faculty, science scholars and expert practitioners will lead you through a powerful and engaging experience. The program uses a unique combination of lectures, case studies, participant presentations, small-group workshops, experiential learning and robust class discussions to deliver the curriculum. Cutting-edge research from economics, psychology and other social sciences are presented, introducing concepts that can help inform policy development.

View the sample schedule here.

The Behavioral Insights and Public Policy curriculum:

  • Introduces new behaviorally informed policy tools that can be applied to address problems across sectors.
  • Challenges you and your peers to think critically about the policy tools that will be most effective and appropriate for specific policy problems.
  • Shows how behavioral insights can improve the effectiveness of traditional policy tools like financial incentives, disclosure or regulation.
  • Demonstrates how to apply behavioral insights in a variety of domestic and international policy domains including savings, consumer credit, education, labor markets, energy use, health care, revenue collection and tax compliance, social welfare programs and the political process.
Behavioral Insight Interventions

To facilitate the learning process, the program focuses heavily on examples of successful behavioral insight interventions. Examples include:

Public health: Many European countries mandate only plain packaging for tobacco products. In Latvia, this was combined with an app providing a calculation of the daily, monthly and annual savings that can result from cutting down on smoking, and posed the tradeoff for attractive goods, such as laptops and mobile phones.

Environment: Spare or soon-to-expire food is collected from participating restaurants, hotels and supermarkets in Portugal and delivered to distributing centers to cater to the needs of poorer families. The "Zero Waste” project uses behavioral levers such as framing (e.g. slogan “Portugal cannot give itself to waste”), reciprocity and salience (participating entities receive a “Zero Waste” label to help citizens identify them). The project has so far distributed over 2.3 million meals.

Pensions defaulting: In the United Kingdom, a reform that required employers to automatically enroll employees in a pension plan increased participation by 20 percent. This behavioral tool is now mandated to be rolled out to private and public sector employers.

View the program brochure to learn more.
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