In January, the second group of professionals will complete the postacademic course ‘Nudging sturen op gedrag’ (nudging and steering behaviour). The course is an initiative of the ESSB Academy, the Erasmus Academie and BIG’R (Behavioural Insights Group Rotterdam). BIG'R was founded in 2017 by prof. dr. Semiha Denktas as a behavioural unit that helped the municipality of Rotterdam solve various behavioural issues. BIG'R is now an independent impact centre within the university that focuses on creating social impact by collaborating with partners in the field. Behavioural scientist dr. Inge Merkelbach is involved in the course as coordinator. She sees that behavioural change is gaining much attention in organizations and companies due to the Covid-19 crisis. Merkelbach: "I hope that this attention will stay even after this crisis. Behaviour plays a role in almost every decision we make. In the course 'Nudging sturen op gedrag" we teach professionals to translate knowledge about behaviour into practical interventions that improve the lives of citizens, employees and customers."
Irrational behaviour under the microscope
The course focuses on human behaviour and behaviour change. Merkelbach: "In the course, we first look at the difference between rational and irrational behaviour. And then we try to explain it. Why is it that we do not always make rational decisions? What thinking errors do people make? What influence does the social and physical environment have? And what role do motivation and habit play in it? Then we look at how to deal with this and how to use behavioural interventions. What strategies do you have to guide behaviour without forcing it?"
Interventions for behavioural problems from the field
The course is for professionals that are involved in policy. For example, policy officers in the (semi) government and also professionals in private companies that wonder how they can deal with certain behaviour of customers or employees. The course consists of five days. In the morning, participants are lectured by behavioural scientists and guest speakers. In the afternoon, they apply the theory to their case. Experts in the field guide them in the afternoon. Merkelbach: "The professionals bring along a case from their own work. In the past, participants have looked at, for example, the waste separation of citizens or the compliance with the safety protocol within a company. During the course, they learn to analyze where the barriers are that stand in the way of the desired behaviour. And we teach professionals how they can research this, for example, by using literature, interviews or focus groups. We also pay attention to the practical side, so how do you set up a research, and how do you evaluate whether the intervention you have designed works? At the end of the course, the participants present the intervention they have devised on a poster and can then start implementing it in practice."
Behavioural lens sparks enthusiasm
During the course, Merkelbach enjoys giving the lectures on three mornings: "You notice that professionals are motivated because they have chosen to follow this course themselves and can also bring a case from their own field. They are very enthusiastic. The great thing about the course is that you see behaviour everywhere once you look through a behavioural lens. Participants look differently at their own decisions but also pay better attention to the behaviour of their family, colleagues or people in the street.
Intervention for more social use of study spaces
Sandra Klarenbeek will complete the course in January. As head of services management of the real estate department of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), she decided to participate in order to stimulate better use of the facilities, such as lecture halls and study places. Klarenbeek: "We notice that students in busy study periods often put down their books at 8 a.m. and then go and do sports or attend a lecture before actually using the study place." During the course, Klarenbeek devised an intervention that uses role models to encourage students to be more social with the study places: "I want to make posters with students who are known by a lot of first-year students, such as members of the faculty council or board members at student associations. On the posters, they explain how they use study places in a sociable way and urge other students to do the same." Klarenbeek has yet to roll out the poster campaign. Still, the course has given her even more ideas for using behavioural interventions for other problems: "I'm sure I'll be able to use the course in the future for, say, the waste problem on campus or leaving lecture halls tidy. Taking the course has given me a whole behavioural handbook that I can always use."
New course dates
The new course starts on April 8. Professionals can still register for it at this link.
On February 11, there will be a trial lecture at 9 a.m. where you can ask Inge Merkelbach all your questions. Sign up for the trial lecture here.