Incentives and Non-Traditional Strategies Solving Common City Problems

Small reminders and suggestions can add up to big changes for cities that "nudge" citizens.

1 minute read

March 9, 2017, 8:00 AM PST

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

High Line Sign

Clemmesen / Shutterstock

"Nudges from governments, non-profits, and private companies can help reverse that inertia and produce more desirable behaviors from residents." writes Chris Bousquet for Data-Smart City Solutions. Behavioral scientists have long studied the ways in which reminders and small incentives can change actions and some cities are taking advantage of this insight to do things like boost participation in city programs, or get residents to pay bills before the city does something more drastic like turning off the water.

One example Bousquet cites comes from a Louisiana health program that intended to get low-income people to get health check-ups. "In a trial facilitated by the Behavioral Insights Team through the What Works Cities program, New Orleans sent text messages to more than 21,000 low-income adults who had not seen a primary care physician in two years or longer," writes Chris Bousquet for Data-Smart City Solutions," Bousquet writes. The program tested multiple messages to find which would resonate best with patients and then used their data to create a more compelling nudge.

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