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Student Blog

Internship Blog 1

Hi I’m Karen, I’m a second year Psychology student and I’ve been asked to blog about my experiences on my ESRC internship with the Cabinet Office which I started at the beginning of June. My internship is with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and I’m based at the Treasury building in Westminster which in itself is amazing!

I’ve been following the work of the team with a keen interest since they were established in 2010 and so to be able to actually work with them is fantastic and such a wonderful opportunity for me for which I am really grateful to the team and the ESRC for providing.

The BIT was set up to apply insights from research in behavioural economics and psychology to public policy and services. They are using behavioural insights to help and encourage people to make better choices for themselves – to ‘nudge’ them in the right direction. They are also championing evidence-based policy making and evaluating interventions rigorously using randomised control trials. They have worked on all kinds of projects from reducing energy consumption, fraud and debt to increasing charitable giving and employment rates.

I spent the first couple of days getting up to speed on the current projects that the team are working on. These are in the areas of health, employment and crime and I shall be working on employment and crime projects. My first task was to come up with some ideas of evidence-based interventions to reduce re-offending that could be trialled in conjunction with the police. I was asked to put together a short report of the ideas as well as summaries of the research/theory that they were based upon. This was a really interesting task as I had to apply my knowledge of the behavioural economics and psychology literature to an area that I knew nothing about. I’ve also been involved with discussions on other crime projects that the team are currently involved with which are aimed at reducing specific types of crime.

These projects are all in the early stages; the team are currently coming up with ideas and going over the details of trialling the interventions. One project that I’ve been learning about and had some involvement with is a new process that the team have developed for Jobcentre Plus aimed at increasing the number of jobseekers going into work and this is currently being trialled across Essex. In my first week I accompanied my manager on a site visit to Chelmsford to see how the trial was going and to sit in on some advisor/customer interviews. This was a really interesting experience and it was great to see how insights from my field are being applied in the real world and also to get some experience of how trials are run and all the things you have to think about when running a trial on this scale. Since the visit I have been working on some training for the advisors and will be visiting more sites over the coming weeks.

I have also put together a bibliography of references and abstracts of studies that have tested interventions based on behavioural insights. This was for an information pack to be given to delegates at a workshop that a member of the team is running.

I am really enjoying the internship so far, the work has been so interesting and the team have been really welcoming. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the projects develop over the time I am with the team.

You can find out more about the team and their research here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/behavioural-insights-team