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Behavioral Design Team


NYC Opportunity has partnered with ideas42, a leading non-profit behavioral design lab, to run the New York City Behavioral Design Team (BDT). There is extensive social science research showing that government programs that are designed and implemented with careful attention to how people use them produce better results. The behavioral design approach emphasizes learning directly from residents about how they use and experience government services. Behavioral design adapts services and systems to meet needs of those being served by accounting for their specific context as well as the quirks of human cognition, and assesses those adaptations using rigorous evaluation methods.

Since its launch in 2016, BDT has worked with more than a dozen agencies across City government to evaluate existing programs and develop ways of using behavioral design to enhance them. Behavioral design experts and some of the most innovative thinkers in City government have collaborated on formulating practical solutions to problems in education, employment, health, government efficiency, energy and the environment, economic mobility, equity, and other areas. There is already considerable evidence that these interventions are producing strong results. In one project, BDT worked with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to assess whether a filing fee waiver could increase the diversity of applicants who took its qualifying examination. For the project, a randomly selected group of applicants had their fees waived while another group did not. The results showed that the fee waiver increased overall filing rates substantially, with large gains among black and female candidates. Other BDT projects have significantly improved the rate at which SNAP recipients recertify for benefits, CUNY students file for federal student aid, and City employees get flu shots.

Based on BDT’s record of success, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which provided initial support for the project, has provided a new round of funding to extend its work for an additional two years.

To learn more about BDT's model for integrating behavioral design in City government, read the BDT Playbook.