New Zealand Law Society - Ministry establishing Behavioural Insights Unit

Ministry establishing Behavioural Insights Unit

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The Ministry of Justice says it is setting up a Behavioural Insights Unit to support  the Ministry of Justice, Police, Corrections, Oranga Tamariki and the Serious Fraud Office.

In the latest issue of its Justice Matters newsletter, the ministry says the proposal for the team came after it started using behavioural insights to improve the way it delivers its services.

"The team will have 11 members and has funding for the next two and a half years," it says. "Behavioural insights play a key role in delivering a humane and effective justice system. Almost everything that happens within the justice sector is behaviour related, from arranging for people to pay their fines to crime prevention strategy."

“If you understand what motivates people’s behaviour and make some small tweaks to existing practices, you can sometimes make enormous improvements. It’s as if you’re nudging someone in the right direction,” says Vee Snijders, Behavioural Insights Senior Advisor.

“Organisations set up systems assuming people will act rationally, but when you observe people they are often influenced by a wide range of personal biases or habits and can behave irrationally or even against their own best intentions.”

The ministry says one of its most notable achievements for using behavioural insights was when its National Service Delivery team recently added 16 words to its template letter to customers reminding them to pay their fines.

"This simple change in language resulted in a $1.7 million increase in fine repayments," it says.

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