Official Action: A Roadmap for Using Behavioral Science in Public Administration Reform

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By Laura Cojocaru, Saugato Datta, Josh Martin, Katie Silva, and Susanti Vijaykumar

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for innovative approaches to government reform as public institutions around the world struggle to perform basic functions like coordinating timely public information campaigns, steering economic resources to those who need them, and procuring essential medical and protective equipment and supplies. Official Action shows that these failures are not simply due to a lack of resources, accountability, competence, or motivation; but that they may be symptoms of the unique stresses that public servants face which, if left unchecked, can derail even the most dedicated officials.

The report offers new solutions to everyday challenges, such as ensuring that all complaints and requests receive equal treatment; helping frontline bureaucrats operate efficiently despite increasing workloads; and fighting corruption within public institutions by demonstrating that governance failures are in large part due to the situations that public servants find themselves in, rather than individual shortcomings. With barriers like constant changes in work environment, unrealistic workloads, and parallel systems for getting things done, the best policies to improve government performance will support better use of public servants’ limited time and realign institutional incentives to encourage behavior change.

The paper was produced by a team of behavioral scientists and experienced government service providers at ideas42 with financial and technical support from The Asia Foundation.

Posted December 11, 2020
Related locations: Nepal
Related programs: Good Governance

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