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With the Coalition putting behaviour change or ‘nudge’ techniques at the forefront of its public service reform agenda, a new report by localism think tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN), illustrates that councils must identify and harness the energy of their most active citizens to help improve services, engage communities and save money.
The new report, Changing Behaviours, has identified a number of innovative case studies and pilot projects where councils have afforded citizens an increased role in re-inventing services, resulting in cost reductions for councils of between 15 and 20 percent.
However, the report also warns that government itself must radically change to initiate and maximise these approaches. Greater resources and emphasis need to be invested in effective communication with residents and in putting support measures in place to enable a more active role for individual citizens in designing their public services.
Report author and NLGN’s Head of Research, Nigel Keohane said:
“With local government facing the daunting challenges of dealing with massive budget reductions whilst renewing their relationship with citizens, councils need to take the lead in adopting behaviour change techniques to make the Government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda a reality.”
“However, moving away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of public services means fundamental change in the way government operates. Councils should focus on detailed and targeted communication with their residents and work with them to make best use of ‘behaviour change’ measures”
“Our research shows that identifying ‘Citizen Pioneers’ who are prepared to initiate and lead increased public engagement with service design can encourage wider participation among communities as these practices become part of the norm.” The report sets out practical tools available to councils to better understand citizens’ underlying motivations so that services can be personalised to their needs and values. This detailed social insight allows councils to gauge and test what support, advice and messages citizens would respond positively to.