This post originally appeared on The Rockefeller Foundation’s blog.
Think of a topic you believe to be both incredibly interesting and highly relevant to improving the lives of millions of people. Got one? Now, imagine a group of leading thinkers, creators, and doers from all corners of the world who are all engaged in that topic coming together for a full month in a serene location, removed from the day to day. These people likely don’t know each other or approach the topic in the same way, but over the course of their time together they exchange ideas, spark new ways of thinking in one another, and draw from their collective knowledge and experience to discuss how to tackle some of the most complex global challenges. Then, at the end of the month, they share the key insights from their experience along with the exciting work they’ve been doing in their own fields. Would you be interested to hear what they have to say?
This summer The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center will put this thought experiment into practice by bringing together 13 leading academics, artists, and practitioners for a month-long residency exploring the fascinating and complex topic of human behavior. For nearly 60 years, The Rockefeller Foundation has brought together interdisciplinary and geographically diverse residency cohorts at the Bellagio Center to advance their own projects focused on positive social impact. However, curating a group of residents all connected through a common theme is a first for the Foundation. We chose human behavior as the topic recognizing that understanding how individuals behave in a given context is fundamental to efforts to address the needs of the world’s most poor and vulnerable. Given the growing momentum of behavioral science solutions across the development and social sectors, we are thrilled to be working with our grantee ideas42 to assemble this creative and diverse group of residents all engaged in human behavior.
ideas42 is a nonprofit that uses academic insights from behavioral science to solve tough social problems to change millions of lives, and they have demonstrated significant success in applying insights about how real people behave to social problems like poverty, education, health, and the environment. For example, using the behavioral science around social norms, OPower, whom ideas42 worked with, has helped consumers reduce energy bills by $700 million by giving them feedback on how their energy use compares to their neighbors. Perhaps not surprisingly, people are more likely to do something if they think other people are doing it. And while it’s a common belief that college students drop out of school mostly for financial reasons, ideas42 has shown that identity and feelings of belonging also play a big role—underscored by the impact on student retention of a short video, affirmative writing exercise, and individual messages shared throughout a schoolyear. The Foundation and ideas42 are also partnering to identify and understand behavioral challenges in the Foundation’s YieldWise Initiative that aims to reduce post-harvest loss by 50 percent in representative value chains. By taking a behavioral lens to farmer uptake of a new crop storage technology, ideas42 will develop a range of interventions that could make it easier for these farmers to reduce post-harvest loss of maize in particular.
While at Bellagio, ideas42 will guide the resident fellows in a number of conversations exploring the patterns of human behavior that are relevant to building resilience and advancing inclusive economies. The resulting insights will address behavioral considerations to take into account how to effectively create opportunities for shared prosperity and build the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of sudden shocks and chronic stresses. Creating those opportunities and building that capacity are not neat or easy challenges, and they require connection and collaboration across traditional boundaries of sector, discipline, and geography. The Bellagio Center has long enabled this type of connection and that is why we are so excited to assemble this multidisciplinary resident cohort all approaching human behavior in their own unique way.
Each resident fellow was selected based on their record of accomplishment within their field, consideration of human behavior within their work, and compelling individual projects. As Bellagio residents, they will spend most of their time at the Center advancing work on these fascinating and novel projects that focus on issues ranging from economic scarcity as a barrier to work performance; to South East Asian perspectives on resilience and disaster recovery; to fostering inclusiveness and civic participation by engaging Kenyan youth through a graphic novelization of the country’s constitution.
The Foundation and ideas42 recently announced the selected resident fellows and we are excited to learn from this amazing group. We look forward to sharing more about the residents, their projects, and the group’s unique insights over the coming weeks.