Behavioural economics expert Professor Cass Sunstein holds lecture for SC staff

Prof Sunstein launches community of practice and outlines benefits of ‘nudging’ to group of employees

Harvard professor and acclaimed author Cass Sunstein recently gave a lecture to SC employees about behavioural economics.

Prof Sunstein, the co-author of ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness’, spoke about the effectiveness of
behavioural economics when it comes to solving numerous challenges, such as those related to healthy lifestyles, financial planning and more.

He also touched on his three-year spell working as the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President Barack Obama.

Prof Sunstein and his co-author, Nobel Prize-winning Richard Thaler, have inspired the launch of ‘nudge units’ around the world. In 2016, the SC launched Qatar Behavioural Insights Unit (QBIU) – the region’s first nudge unit that has a vision to become a centre of excellence in behavioural economics and policy experimentation across the Middle East.

Since then, several countries in the region have built on lessons learned from the Qatar experience in designing their own units, namely, Nudge Lebanon and the Kuwait Policy Appraisal Lab.

During his visit to Qatar, Prof Sunstein spoke at the first meeting of the Community of Practice for Behavioural Economics in Qatar. The community of practice was devised jointly by the QBIU and Qatar Foundation. It will be made up of representatives from Qatar’s governmental, academic and private sectors, who will meet regularly in order to share knowledge and pool efforts related to the growing field of behavioural economics.

In addition, members will identify potential behavioural bottlenecks in policy challenges, and discuss how to address these through strategic partnerships with leading academic and research institutions using nudges and other types of behavioral interventions.

Prof Sunstein, who is the Founder and Director of the Programme on Behavioural Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, said he was impressed with Qatar’s commitment to behavioural economics and praised the work of QBIU.

“What I’ve noticed is that the World Cup is being seen by many as an opportunity to do something great in connection with football, and also things in relation to the type of challenges faced by many of the world’s nations, such as health issues and the promotion of entrepreneurship,” said Sunstein.

“I’ve only been here a couple of days, but my initial reaction is that in Qatar there has been extraordinary progress in a very short space of time when it comes to studying problems and using behavioural economics to figure out what needs to be done to solve them.”

Prof Sunstein went on to outline the benefits of launching a community of practice.

“Launching a body like this is extremely important. In my experience, a community of practice can take one person’s idea and apply it in a number of different settings. It offers great potential.”

Prof Sunstein continued: “Countries such as Denmark and Ireland are doing some fantastic work through communities of practice and there is no reason why Qatar can’t do the same.”

Dr. Fadi Makki, Advisor to the Secretary General, leads QBIU. He described Sunstein as an ‘inspiration’.

Cass Sunstein and his co-author Richard Thaler have been a source of inspiration for countries, businesses, and individuals interested in applying nudge theory to public policy challenges.

“We are proud that Qatar is at the cutting edge of this innovation by setting up the first nudge unit in the Middle East, and greatly appreciate
Professor Sunstein’s support in our endeavours.”

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