Behaviour change

Thanks to eGov Monitor for pointing out the new NLGN publication “Changing Behaviours: Opening a new conversation with the citizen” by Nigel Keohane and based upon work by iMPOWER.

I was expecting a report on cultural change in the offices of government, instead this promotes changing the habits of government users. In a similar manner  to the ‘Circles of Need’ approach developed by Aperia, it involves grouping service users into different psychometric-type groups, the settlers, prospectors and pioneers, depending upon how willing they appear to be to play a part in doing it for themselves. This would appear to be the crux of the matter, self-service rather than co-design, co-delivery rather than co-production.

Part of the problem with this is, and probably why it’s worked where it’s been tried is, that the problem is with behaviour in ‘authority’, staff are unlikely to want service users making their own decisions. Politicians similarly lose control over their electorate. It’s all ‘Big Society’ talk with the same model, where a hoard of paid advisors will tell people under central mandate how to go about it! The behaviour change is needed from Whitehall out and down.

One fascinating statistic on page 8, is that the shared services, so strongly being promoted at a local government level are likely to generate at most only 4% of expenditure savings, and that is the top estimate! Where the ‘sharing’ should come in is sharing good practice in changing in-house behaviours and improving citizen satisfaction with it. Now that the performance indicators are disappearing and the subsequent  competition element they so drove, lets see better transparency of learning and improvement.

Much of the feedback from the study is so obviously true that it didn’t require dividing the citizenry into three groups. Of course users want ‘more responsive and empathetic services’ and there are ‘issues of trust’. The report has much ‘folk psychology’ in the description of user types, which is there, obviously, to support their model. Similarly other conclusions state the obvious to anyone working to improve services “to tailor targeted messages and support that fit  with clients because what seems a reasonable justification to some may not be to others” (pg 25). Other than that there is much trumpeting about communications and engagement, which we already know is a necessary change but requires services to change not the citizen!

We don’t need any more toolkits, toolboxes or models of citizenry, just some common sense in how we focus services to deal with needs, particularly those groups of individual citizens in greatest need.


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