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Preparing to Test and Market Design

We refined the message frames that were testing as part of our randomised controlled trial. As I’ve been chronicling daily, our team is testing different communication frames to improve diversity and inclusion awareness.

We had set aside an hour for our project team to address the comments that we received from our colleagues. It was only really one of the three message frames that had generated the most comments. In reality, it took us the entire day to finalise the wording.

The messages are very short—about five or six sentences—but we had to make sure that we were addressing the comments, while still being true to the evidence from the research literature, our fieldwork and interviews, our user test surveys, and all of the other research we’ve undertaken so far.

We had to make sure that we were being concise and that each message frame was distinct, so it’s clear what behavioural principles we’re testing.

We ended up generating three new versions of the one message frame. Then we took it back to user testing and peer review from our team.

We then incorporated that feedback and had a meeting with our partner agency to get their subject matter expertise. We revised the message frame again, based on their input.

Now it’s gone off to the executive leaders from our partner agency for their review and approval (to approve the content, and ensure it aligns with their program goals, and so on). As I mentioned yesterday, the next step will be to send all the materials for senior executive approval within our organisation. Then there’s there’s still a long way to go before we make it into the field!

The other major task today was our broader weekly team meeting, which goes for an hour and a half. I facilitated a small discussion on our clinics. The clinics are a rotating responsibility in our team, where the senior managers (myself and others) have a practical 30-minute session with other agencies who are seeking ad hoc advice. It’s a way for our team to manage the high volume of requests for our time. It also meets our capability building remit, as we’re trying to increase the use of behavioural insights across the sector (that is, applying behavioural and social science in social policy).

Finally, I provided some comments to our colleagues who are scoping some new work about how behavioural insights can be applied to market design. If you’re interested in this, have a look at the work of Professor Alvin Roth. He won the 2012 Nobel Prize for economics. His work is about how markets can maximise matching outcomes where there’s an issue between supply and demand. This theory has been used to increase organ donations. It’s also been used to match families with schools. It’s been used in the medical labour market, where you have two recently graduated doctors who are married to one another, and they need to find place of residency which is local for both of them.

This isn’t my research expertise, but my comments were more about where similar types of systemic questions have come up in our work, and how we’ve dealt with them in the past. I also made recommendations on how we might consider using market design, and some limitations of this theory.

This work could not be further from the sociological training that I’ve received! Nevertheless, my interest lies in the potential backfire effect that market design can sometimes have (where the outcome is the opposite of what’s inteded) . For example, a lot of doctors over the years have heavily critiqued the idea of markets matching kidney transplants. Issues of equity and access, plus professionals pushing back against systemic and economic interventions, are more aligned with my interest as a sociologist.

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