ideas42 Behavioral Design Center empowers service providers and activists to use behavioral science in their practice

Capacity-building resource announces first cohort of five partners as part of ongoing efforts to bring evidence-based strategies and solutions to New York non-profits

December 13, 2018 (New York, NY)—Non-profits on the front lines of improving the lives of New Yorkers now have free access to a proven approach to make their work even more effective, with the launch of the Behavioral Design Center (BDC). Created by non-profit behavioral design firm ideas42, and generously supported by The New York Community Trust and the Booth Ferris Foundation, the BDC guides practitioners and program managers in applying insights and techniques from behavioral science to make good programs even better and enable more New Yorkers to benefit from them.

Non-profit organizations support New Yorkers in countless ways—providing essential health and human services, early childhood and youth development opportunities, and resources to combat poverty and strengthen communities, among others. Too often, however, valuable services go under-used, or clients and community members fail to complete the steps needed to benefit and achieve positive results. Behavioral science, the study of how people make decisions and take action in the real world, offers evidence-based tools to uncover the often-hidden barriers standing in the way of program success.

Through monthly educational workshops, individual technical assistance, and cooperative design projects, the Behavioral Design Center helps non-profits based in New York City identify and create solutions for common behavioral barriers that emerge in service delivery. To make the resource available to as many service providers as possible, the BDC also offers weekly office hours to non-profit staff. Since its inception earlier this year, the BDC has led multiple workshops in New York with a particular focus on alleviating poverty and enhancing civic engagement using behavioral insights.

The BDC is now announcing its first cohort of non-profit partners for five in-depth technical assistance projects in which BDC staff will lend their expertise and work directly with non-profit program managers to identify and address behavioral barriers affecting the success of their programs and client outcomes. The selected projects are all focused on strengthening programs aimed at alleviating poverty:

  • Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC)—Improve continued engagement among the organization’s education and training program clients as they strive to secure employment and/or higher education.
  • NYC Kids RISE–Improve the user experience for families participating in the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program.
  • CUNY Early Childhood Professional Development Institute—Strengthen the early childhood workforce and program quality by increasing number of uncertified early childhood teachers who receive training and support to obtain Pre-K certification
  • Room to Grow –Develop effective referral strategies for new Bronx location of a program that provides low-income families with infants with coaching, service referrals, and essential baby goods from just before the birth of their babies through age three.
  • Queens Community House—Develop behaviorally informed strategies to encourage over-age, under-credited students to obtain services and supports aimed at increasing school attendance and facilitating transition to post-secondary education and employment.

“We know there is often a gap between people’s intentions and actions—perhaps they intend to use a non-profit’s program or service but don’t follow through, or have misconceptions about what’s possible or expected in a particular situation,” said Laura Wolff, Director of the Behavioral Design Center at ideas42. “By helping organizations working directly in communities infuse behavioral science-informed strategies into their practice, professional development, and program design, we’re making the benefits of the behavioral approach accessible to more people in New York than ever before.”

“Applying behavioral design principles to programs run by nonprofit agencies has the potential to improve the lives of needy New Yorkers,” said Natasha Lifton, Senior Program Officer at The New York Community Trust. “The Behavioral Design Center’s expertise will help agencies fine-tune their messaging and approach to ensure their programs do the job they intended to do.”

“We’ve had a very positive experience working with the Behavioral Design Center,” said Lynn Appelbaum, Deputy Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses of New York, host of four BDC workshops, including a two-part session on applying behavioral design approaches to increase civic participation. “The workshop content has been very useful for working toward our goal of increasing civic engagement in neighborhoods across New York City. The people at ideas42 really understand what we’re trying to do.”

By offering support through multiple channels including regular in-depth workshops, customized project assistance, and quick-touch office hour consultations, the BDC aims to reduce the barriers (and hassles) to tapping the power of behavioral science to improve individual lives and strengthen communities.

The next workshop, which is free for staff of NYC non-profits, takes place on January 29th.  More information can be found here, and interested non-profits can sign up for the BDC listserv or an office hour to learn more.

About ideas42

ideas42’s mission is to use the power of behavioral science to design scalable solutions to some of society’s most difficult problems. ideas42 grew out of research programs in psychology and economics at top academic institutions, and its work draws on decades of experimental scientific research. ideas42 uses these insights to design scalable ways to improve programs, policies and products in the real world. ideas42 works with a wide range of partners, from leading foundations and non-profit organizations, to government bodies and businesses. In short, anyone who wants to make a positive difference to peoples’ lives.

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