Chicago Behavioral Design Team

Posted in Projects

Embedding Behavioral Insights In City Government

Cities are increasingly earning a reputation as leaders in the push for policy and service delivery innovation. By virtue of their position between the more distant federal government and local neighborhood communities, city governments have unique potential to create real, positive impact at scale for everyday residents.

In 2015, the City of Chicago demonstrated a commitment to evidence-based innovation by joining with ideas42 to form the Chicago Behavioral Design Team (BDT). Through this partnership, the Second City became the first city government in the United States to directly embed a behavioral science team into its operations. Part of our Gov42 portfolio of government partnerships, the Chicago BDT builds on proven interventions at the federal, state, and city levels to find new evidence-based, cost-effective solutions to persistent social problems.

Providing good, effective government services today requires a nuanced understanding of human behavior to better design human-centric policies and programs. The Chicago Behavioral Design Team works across city government to design low-cost, scalable solutions to problems and provide policy and programmatic support to departments. Together, BDT team members and key department staff inside City Hall and across city agencies work to identify the best ways to design and test behavioral solutions to problems facing 2.7 million Chicagoans.

In every context that a City of Chicago agency interacts with the public, there is an opportunity to enhance outcomes and experiences. For example:

  • Preliminary results from a study conducted by the BDT on Chicago’s ‘bag tax’ showed it reduces disposable bag use by over 40%, which represents significant potential for environmental impact. More information about this work can be found here. 
  • A pilot conducted with the Chicago Transit Authority using text messages to transit riders helped riders change their commute during peak hours on the evenings of Cubs home games. This led to a 17.5% reduction in peak-hour ridership from 5-6 PM from downtown Red Line stations. This could have implications in efforts to ease commute congestion across other transit systems. More information about this work can be found here. 

Support for the Chicago Behavioral Design Team is provided by the City of Chicago.