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Behavioral Insights for Cities

Over the past year, our North American office, based in New York, has worked with midsized cities across the U.S. through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities (WWC) initiative. Today BIT North America launches its first report: a practical guide to the application of behavioral science in US cities. Drawing on the results of over 25 trials led by BIT over the past year, we show how this approach can improve take-up of services, make government requests as effective as possible and build a stronger government workforce.


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This report is a celebration of the city, a review of what we’ve learned from over 25 applied behavioral insights projects in cities as different as Chattanooga, San Jose, Louisville, and Denver, and food for thought on how these insights might be applied to improve government and its services next. The report is structured around three challenges with which we see governments across the country wrestling: improving the take-up of services, building the best government workforce, and making government requests more effective. In each section, we explore the behavioral components of the issue, provide examples of what works, and consider other opportunities for progress. This work fits into a bigger movement to bring data and evidence to the fore in city administrations. The report summarizes work conducted as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative, a $42 million investment to cement the use of data and evidence in America’s midsize cities.

Date Published

October 24, 2016