Behaviour architects: a framework for employing behavioural insights in public policy practice


Objectives: Responses to policy initiatives of citizens and organisations often differ from those expected by policy designers. The article offers an analytical framework for holistic mapping of mechanisms driving policy addressees’ behaviours.

Research design & methods: Article uses systematic literature review of policy design and behavioural insights studies to develop the framework. The framework is then empirically tested in a case study of a policy implemented in 2015 by the government of Poland to address the problem of obesity in school children. Methods include in-depth interviews with adults parents, school principals, canteen staff, surveys, and focus groups with parents and teenagers, ethnographic observations in school canteens.

Findings: The empirical test proved the utility of the analytical framework in identifying flaws in policy design. Framework helped: (1) articulating an overall theory of change of regulation; (2) reframing the policy issue in behavioural terms, i.e., stating who, how, and in what context did not comply, and (3) identifying reasons for non-compliance related to capacity, motivation and opportunities of the policy subjects.

Implications / Recommendations: The article proposes that policy designers should work as behaviour architects in order to design more effective public policies and avoid policy failures. They should consider mechanisms facilitating or hampering expected behaviours of policy addressees.

Contribution / Value added: This article contributes to the theory and practice of policy design. It operationalises determinants of policy compliance from the perspective of applied behavioural science. It helps public policy scholars and practitioners to think systematically about policy subjects’ behaviours, decisions, and their determinants when analysing and designing policy solution.

Article classification: theoretical article – conceptual article.


behavioural insight; public policy design; evaluation; behavioural economics

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Published : 2019-06-27

Olejniczak, K., Śliwowski, P., & Roszczyńska-Kurasińska, M. (2019). Behaviour architects: a framework for employing behavioural insights in public policy practice. Journal of Public Governance, (47(1), 18-32.

Karol Olejniczak 
Institute of Social Sciences SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities  Poland
Paweł Śliwowski 
Centre for European Regional and Local Studies (EUROREG) University of Warsaw  Poland
Magdalena Roszczyńska-Kurasińska 
The Robert Zajonc Institute for Social Studies University of Warsaw  Poland


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