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BehaviourWorks Australia has developed a game-changing framework for public administrators

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MSDI’s BehaviourWorks Australia has developed a ground-breaking new framework that is helping public administrators improve compliance through written communications.

The framework is a recipe of sorts to help public administrators create written requests and communications using techniques that have been demonstrated in previous research to increase compliance and produce socially desirable outcomes.

‘The INSPIRE Framework: How Public Administrators Can Increase Compliance with Written Requests Using Behavioural Techniques’ was published in the world-leading Public Administration Review journal in November and is designed to be used as a practical tool for public administrators in improving written communications, such as letters, emails and website notices, particularly when there is a request to perform a specific behaviour.

Developed by BehaviourWorks Australia researchers, the INSPIRE framework is the first model of behaviour change specifically designed to impact public administrators’ ability to produce effective and impactful written communications.

While behaviour science research has identified techniques that can be used in written communication to influence behaviour, the model is the first attempt to combine those elements into a single framework for bureaucrats to use.

The INSPIRE model has already been tested by several government agencies in Australia with impressive results.

VicRoads used the framework to increase drivers’ compliance with medical fitness to drive reviews by 23 per cent, while the Victorian health department increased influenza vaccination rates in indigenous communities by a third using the model.

Researchers from BehaviourWorks have also been invited to deliver training on the framework to a range of other government agencies.

The elements of the INSPIRE framework are: Implementation intentions: these aim to help close the gap between people’s stated intentions and their actual behaviour; Norms: the letter’s author should carefully select a reference group that the audience identifies with; Salience: achieved through using coloured font or backgrounds, for example; Procedural justice: structuring written requests in a way that promote fairness and compliance;

Incentives: small incentives can be built into communications, as can disincentives (e.g. a late fee); Reputation: credibility is increasingly important given the rise in disruptive communication and scams; Ease: making compliance easy for the target audience; well-written content can promote comprehension and compliance.

“In practice, letters and emails written using the framework would incorporate the ‘ease’ technique and at least one of the other techniques,” says Dr Nick Faulkner, a research fellow at BehaviourWorks Australia and the paper’s lead author.

“This means using simple language and helpful headings to make it easy for people to quickly understand what they are being asked to do,” Dr Faulkner said.

“It also means doing things like mentioning that everyone else is already doing the behaviour (norms), or adding information that explains the reasons for the request, and expresses understanding and respect for the recipients (procedural justice),” he added.