2nd BeSP Symposium
Prof. Susan Michie, Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London

Susan Michie, FMedSci, FAcSS is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London (www.ucl.ac.uk/behaviour-change). She is co-Director of NIHR’s Behavioural Science Policy Research Unit, leads UCL’s membership of NIHR’s School of Public Health Research and is an NIHR Senior Investigator.

Professor Michie’s research focuses on behaviour change: how to understand it theoretically and apply theory to complex intervention development, evaluation and implementation. Her research, collaborating with disciplines such as information science, environmental science, computer science and medicine, covers population, organisational and individual level interventions. Examples include the Human Behavior Change Project (www.humanbehaviourchange.org) and Complex Systems for Sustainability and Health www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/environmental-design/research/research-projects/cussh.

She serves as an expert advisor to Public Health England and the UK Department of Health and Social Care, is Chair of the UK Food Standard Agency’s Social Sciences Advisory Committee and chaired the Academy of Social Science’s ‘Health of People’ project. 

Website:     https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/people/susan-michie   

Email:        s.michie@ucl.ac.uk          

Twitter:    @SusanMichie  


Applying behavioural science to policy and interventions: a tool for collaboration

Understanding and changing patterns of behaviour are key to promoting health and well-being, preventing illness and disability and efficient and equitable delivery of services. However, changing behaviour is a complex process and evidence shows that interventions in a wide range of domains generally have modest and variable effects. Developing and delivering interventions to change behaviour that meet policy-makers’ needs and expectations is a challenge.

How to meet this challenge?

One method is to apply a framework that links the science and practice of behaviour change, and acknowledges the complexity of the process whilst providing a method that is useable across disciplines. One such framework is the Behaviour Change Wheel which provides methods to (i) analyse problems in terms of the behaviours contributing to them, identifying ‘Who needs to do what, when, where and how?’ (ii) understand the influences on those behaviours, and (iii) develop interventions at individual, community and population levels, informed by this understanding.

This talk will introduce

1. A simple model of behaviour for understanding behaviours in their contexts: the COM-B model

2. A linked framework for designing interventions to change behaviour: the Behaviour Change Wheel

3. A method for applying interventions to their local context: the APEASE criteria.

Prof. Cass Sunstein, Harvard University (distance connection)

Cass R. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. Mr. Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects, and he has been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations. 

Mr. Sunstein is author of many articles and books, including  Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), Worst-Case Scenarios (2001), Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008), Simpler: The Future of Government (2013) and most recently Why Nudge? (2014) and Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (2014). He is now working on group decisionmaking and various projects on the idea of liberty 

Areas of Interest 

  • Administrative Law 
  • Constitutional Law 
  • Environmental Law and Policy 
  • Employment Law 
  • Law and Economics: Behavioral Law and Economics 
  • Labor Law 


KEYNOTE Lecture and a Q&A session (distance connection)

Dr. Adam Oliver, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Adam Oliver is a behavioral economist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has published and taught widely in the areas of health economics and policy, behavioral economics, and behavioral public policy. He is a founding editor in chief of the journal Behavioural Public Policy. He is the editor of a volume also titled Behavioural Public Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and the author of The Origins of Behavioural Public Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Reciprocity and the Art of Behavioural Public Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2019).


Towards a New Political Economy of Behavioral Public Policy

The dominant normative framework in behavioral public policy postulates paternalistic intervention to increase individual utility, epitomized by the so‐called nudge approach. In this article, an alternative political economy of behavioral public policy is proposed that sits within, or at least closely aside, the liberal economic tradition. In short, rather than impose utility maximization as the normative ideal, this framework proposes that policy makers provide an environment that is conducive to each person's own conception of a flourishing life, while at the same time regulating against behaviorally informed harms and for behaviorally induced, otherwise forgone, benefits.

Francesca Papa, Economics Department, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (distance connection)

As a member of the Economics Department at the OECD (Country Studies Branch), Francesca is an early career leader in global research, concentrating on the implementation of structural reforms in OECD countries. 

In her previous positions at OECD, Francesca has worked to apply her behavioral science knowledge to research topics from public policy and regulation to organizational management and change. This includes the OECD reports on: “Delivering Better Policies Through Behavioural Insights" and “Tools and Ethics for Applied Behavioural Insights: The BASIC Toolkit”.

A graduate of the Master in Behavioral and Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania, Francesca holds the 2018 Brenno Galli Award as Most Promising Young Scholar in Law and Economics. Prior to her graduate work, she completed her bachelor studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) between LUISS, Stanford, and Sciences Po Paris. She has also worked for the European Commission.


The international frontiers of behavioural public policy

As behavioural insights (BI) become more widely used, countries are looking to expand the application of the methodology to new frontiers of policy making. In her talk, after an overview of the current standing of behavioural public policy, Francesca will present her views on how and when behavioural insights can be applied to policy making, drawing from four experimental applications of behavioural economics developed by the OECD in collaboration with national entities around the world. The topics will range from antitrust and competition law to environmental behaviour, safety culture and consumer protection. In addition, Francesca will discuss the relevance of behavioural insights for reform implementation, reflecting on why governments should appeal to psychological principles to support their reform priorities.

Prof. Harri Oinas-Kukkonen, University of Oulu

Harri Oinas-Kukkonen, Ph.D., is Professor of information systems science and Dean of Graduate School in the University of Oulu, Finland. His research has been published in a variety of computer science, human-computer interaction, organization & management as well as health and medical informatics journals. He is a co-author of the book “Humanizing the Web: Change and Social Innovation” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). His current main research interests include persuasive systems design, behavior change, and humanized information technologies.


Digital intervention design

Conceptual models and frameworks for designing, evaluating and researching technological health interventions, known as the Persuasive Systems Design (PSD) and the Behavior Change Support System (BCSS), will be presented. These help select what kind of software functionality may be built into the service or system being designed. They also highlight the fundamentals behind any systems designed for behavior change and ways to analyze contexts for persuasion.

Adj. Prof. Pilvikki Absetz, University of Eastern Finland

Pilvikki Absetz is a Doctor of Psychology, an Adjunct Professor of Health Promotion at the University of Tampere, and a behavioral scientist specialized in implementation research. Starting her research career at the Finnish National Public Health Institute (later National Institute of Health and Welfare) she now has over 20 years of experience in designing, implementing and evaluating behavioral interventions for prevention and self-management of chronic non-communicable diseases through lifestyle changes. The theory- and evidence-based interventions have utilized different delivery platforms and technologies to promote healthy eating, physical activity, stress management and other relevant lifestyle and self-care behaviors, and they have been implemented in different “real world” settings in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries. Currently, Pilvikki is the Head of Research and Development at Provention Ltd, and the CEO and sole owner of Collaborative Care Systems Finland. She is also a popular speaker on how to apply psychological knowledge in promoting behavior change and she has extensive experience in training health care professionals in lifestyle coaching.


Shared functions but contextualised content and delivery - the SMART2D intervention to prevent and control type 2 diabetes in three different disadvantaged settings

Type 2 diabetes is a growing burden globally, but it touches disproportionately vulnerable populations such as people living in low- and middle-income countries and socio-economically disadvantaged groups in high-income countries. The disease can be prevented and controlled with self-management (including healthy lifestyle), which need engagement from the individual but also support from family, peers and community as well as the health system.  Hence, all those levels need to be considered when identifying and addressing barriers and facilitators for self-management. While some of them may be generic, many are also context specific. From a multi-context intervention development perspective, this has important implications for the selection of intervention objectives: while some objectives may be shared, others cannot. Hence, both generic as well as context-specific objectives are likely needed. Furthermore, even for the generic objectives, existing evidence-based strategies can have poor fit with the context, since most of the strategies and their underlying behavior change theories have been initially designed and tested in high-income settings. While the key function or the “active ingredient” for change such as e.g., provision of practical support has to be acknowledged and retained with as much fidelity as possible, translation of the strategies into different contexts almost always requires adaptation of content and delivery, e.g., what the practical support needs to entail and who delivers it. The SMART2D project was conducted in rural Uganda, urban township in South Africa, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in urban Sweden. The project aimed to develop an intervention based on the needs and capacities of each site while leveraging core objectives and strategies with key functions.  Developing a process that would also promote cross-learning between the sites was one of the overarching objectives of the project. This presentation will give an overview of the intervention design process conducted in a phased collaborative approach across the three settings and contribute to unraveling the implementation knowledge gap of how to adapt evidence-based self-management interventions into real world settings. 

Asst. Prof. Nelli Hankonen, University of Helsinki

Nelli Hankonen works as assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Helsinki, with a research focus on behaviour change, motivation, and motivational interaction. She obtained her PhD in 2011, and has worked at the National Institute of Health and Wellbeing, and at the Universities of Cambridge, Konstanz and Tampere. Her and her team’s research has resulted in several publications but also practical applications and interventions in practice. She is one of the editors of the forthcoming Handbook of Behavior Change (Cambridge University Press, 2020).


Common tasks and principles in behaviour change intervention development frameworks: Integrative review

A systematic approach to behavior change intervention development is advocated by several frameworks, to secure robust development process. Most frameworks include common key tasks to both developing new as well as optimizing existing interventions: (1) identify and analyze the problem addressed in behavioral terms; (2) identify intervention mechanisms, content and delivery mode(s), and design a logic model or program theory; (3) develop materials or prototypes (e.g., interface); and (4) test the intervention iteratively through empirical optimization. Depending on time and resources, the tasks can be completed relatively quickly or take considerable time. Fidelity, feasibility and acceptability should be considered in all tasks. This talk reviews key challenges in intervention development and describes potential solutions. 

Dr. Lauri Sääksvuori, The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)

Dr. Sääksvuori is an economist who has previously pursued his research at the Max Planck Institute of Economics, Indiana University, University of Hamburg and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published in notable general interest journals in economics and biology and in leading field journals in behavioral and experimental economics. He has also policy work experience from the European Commission.


Behavioral insights and influenza immunization: Evidence from a large-scale RCT

Brief abstract:Vaccination is considered to be one of the most effective and successful means of preventive medicine. However, increasing levels of vaccine hesitancy pose a serious threat to the success of various vaccination programs. We test the impact of communicating the concept of herd immunity on influenza vaccine uptake among elderly using a large-scale natural field experiment (n = 48125). We systematically varied the messages of printed letters that were mailed to individuals eligible for free influenza vaccines in Finland during the influenza season 2018-2019. We assigned three treatment groups: 1.) No letter, 2.) Standard letter, and 3.) Herd immunity letter. We implemented our experiment in two geographic areas with different historical vaccination uptake rates. Our results showed that communicating the concept of herd immunity and highlighting the social benefits of vaccination using postal letters did not significantly affect vaccine uptake. From the confidence intervals, we can rule out effects larger than 1–1.5 percentage point increase in vaccination uptake. However, we found that receiving any type of letter that informs the target population about free influenza vaccines had a large effect (6 percentage points, 95% CI: 4.1 pp – 8.8 pp) on vaccine uptake. This effect was particularly large among individuals with no previous history of influenza vaccines.

Sirpa Kekkonen, Head of Government Strategy Secretariat, Prime Minister's Office

Since 2003 in the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office. Senior Adviser on Strategy of the Finnish Government. As head of Government Strategy Secretariat, she has been responsible for running the Government’s strategy process including the regular Government strategy sessions and biannual strategic situation awareness sessions. The strategy work contains coordination of the policy work of the Ministries and policy programmes. Special expertise in the use of evidence and foresight in the Government’s decision-making and use of impact assessment in the Government policy-making.

Master of Laws 1979 and Master of Political Science 2008. Worked earlier in the Finnish Ministry of Finance designing governance reform policies and as the Director of the Finnish Institute of Public Management HAUS. International activities include e.g. working as an expert in the OECD Secretariat and acting as senior advisor in several international development projects, including EU-funded capacity building projects.

Ms. Kekkonen has been in central position in introducing the new strategic working process and leadership model of the Finnish Government. An important part of the reform has been enhancing systemic changes into the Government approaches, e.g. in the fields of digitalization and experimentation and strengthening innovative capacity of the Finnish Government.


Use of behavioral insight in the Policy-making of the Finnish Government– overview of recent developments

The presentation discusses the present stage of the use of behavioral insights in the decision-making of Finnish Governments. An overview of development of behavioral approaches in policy-making in Finland is made. The presentation draws from the perspective of long-term Governance development in Finland. It seeks a way to understand how various styles of Government policymaking are connected to the operational environment and societal situation in time.

Prof. Maija Setälä, University of Turku

Maija Setälä is a Professor in Political Science at the University of Turku, Finland. Setälä received her PhD at the London School of Economics in 1997. Setälä specialises in democratic theory, especially theories of deliberative democracy, direct democracy and democratic innovations. Currently, she is on a research leave and leads a project entitled “Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making” (PALO), funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland.


Deliberative mini-publics facilitating voter knowledge and judgement: Experience from a Finnish local referendum

Maija Setälä*, Mikko Leino, Henrik Serup Christensen, Maria Bäck, Kim Strandberg

My presentation deals with the use of a Citizens’ Jury as a source of voter information in the context of a government-initiated (top-down) referendum. Our pilot study is a Citizens’ Jury on Referendum Options organized in the municipality of Korsholm (Finland) in 2019. The Citizens’ Jury followed the Citizens’ Initiative Review Model developed in Oregon. Based on surveys conducted among the participants, we find that they were satisfied with the deliberative process and found it impartial. According to the post-referendum survey, a large majority of voters had read the statement and thought it was a useful source of information. Finally, based on a field experiment, we find that reading the statement had a number of effects, including boosting factual knowledge and issue-specific efficacy, while it also induced people to think about the issues from perspectives other than their own.

Eeva Rantala, Research Scientist, Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)

Eeva Rantala, M.Sc. and authorized nutritionist, works as a researcher in VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Within the field of nutrition, she is particularly intrigued by eating behaviour and food-related decision-making, and how the food environment influences these. Eeva has been working in research projects that aim at promoting healthy behaviours by altering choice environments - the so-called nudge approach.


Nudging healthy eating and physical activity: Experiences from the StopDia at Work intervention

Behaviour is assumed to result from the interplay of two types of cognitive processes, automatic and reflective. These processes are influenced by contextual and environmental cues, and are prone to systematic errors. The Nudge approach aims at guiding people’s behaviour by redesigning the choice architecture of environments. The StopDia at Work -intervention exploited this approach to foster healthy dietary choices and physical activity at Finnish workplaces. The study showed that workplaces have excellent possibilities to utilise nudge strategies as part of their daily operations to encourage employees to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. Successful implementation requires management’s support and a motivated and committed implementer who is able to keep implemented interventions up besides other work duties. Interventions need to be designed carefully to fit the resources and needs of the organisation and its employees.

Audience comes from many disciplines and have very varying levels of knowledge in the symposium issues. Could you write concisely three main learning points from your presentation? This would help audience to orient better to the content.