How #RunningDry grew from a campaign to a movement

When Mina Guli engaged us to help with the strategy for 100 marathons in 100 days we knew that a powerful narrative was going to be essential if we were going to sustain public attention for so long. But when Mina was injured our best laid plans went out the window and that’s where things got really interesting…

The 5 working parts of company culture

Every good leader knows the importance of Company Culture, and yet it is difficult to grasp and actively shape. Culture determines a groups capability to respond to change, and to function as more than the sum of its parts. To help get a handle on this seemingly intangible concept let us introduce you to the PARTS of culture.

#BI4Gov: How a small, but deeply engaged community can have HUGE impact


In late 2018, Treeshake took on the social media production for #BI4Gov, a conference focused on how to use behavioural insights to successfully shape and implement policy, in a socially beneficial way. Through a partnership between the Western Cape Government (WCG) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), experts from throughout the world came together to discuss the ins and outs of using BI in Government.

This case study is about how a Twitter account with just 213 followers and no paid media budget got a niche topic trending and reached over 2 million people.

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Starting with a brand new account with no followers on Twitter, and just two weeks to launch we knew that we’d be reliant on the voices of others with larger followings.

The first step was to set up the account to look as credible as it was - partner logos, clean design, and 3 high quality posts were set up. We then sent the page around to the team of collaborators and asked them to engage with the posts and follow so we’d have a bit of traction.

The next step was to tap into BI communities on Twitter, and identify thought leaders. We directly engaged around 60 followers ahead of the conference and directly asked them to follow us and help us get the #BI4Gov discussion going. We did this by email and direct message rather than publicly.

We found the BI enthusiasts supportive, warm, and welcoming to a new entrant to the space - this is partly thanks to declaring our agenda upfront, having the backing of the OECD, and introducing ourselves directly to the main thought leaders. This got the conversation rolling, and even with a relatively small following, everything we posted got a response.

The official Twitter account quickly gained around 150 followers. Without any paid advertising budget, we relied solely on consistent, authentic engagement with each member of the community. These followers were all highly skilled BI experts, each of whom had very strong links to the overall online BI community. This allowed for a higher degree of sophistication in the commentary and posts we put out, along with a much higher than average engagement rate.

On the day of the conference, the hashtag was visibly promoted at the conference, attended by around 300 people - many of whom had been contacted by the social media team ahead of time to let them know the importance of sharing their views. The result was that virtually everyone who attended participated in the online discussion, sharing substantive content that attracted public interest and media attention.

But it wasn’t all serious, either. As participants got to know each other, playful Twitter banter emerged in the form of ‘the sock saga’, with various speakers and organisers of the event comparing their funky sock choices. With the perfect mix of serious, insightful and fun, the #BI4Gov community blew us away with their deep engagement and commitment to the conversation.

Most importantly, the conference and public support for the issue has led to the establishment of South Africa’s first Behavioural Insights Unit in Government - #BI4Gov is here to stay.

The main take away from this? A small group of deeply engaged people can make a huge impact. Inspired by Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead, this is something we call The Mead Principle:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

The #BI4gov conversation continues on Twitter @bi4gov, if you’re interested in the topic please do add your voice.

Behavioural Insights in Government: Nudging for Change

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This week in Cape Town, experts from around the world converge to discuss the use of Behavioural Insights in Government. A partnership between the Western Cape Government (WCG) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), discussions focus on how to apply BI to shaping and implementing policy.

Policy and Behavioural Science may not seem like a natural fit, but they are. Our behaviours and choices have a huge effect on the way a city works - for example, how much water we use; what public transport we take; how much electricity we use; whether we litter; and so on. Government can’t force people to behave in a particular way, it always comes down to personal choice.

But government can shape policy in a way that makes it easier to make choices that benefit the most people.

Behavioural Insights (BI) is gaining acceptance as one of the most effective ways for government to bring about social benefit through policy. The Policy and Strategy Unit in the Department of the Western Cape Premier has been studying and engaging with BI since 2012, and the UK government has famously had a ‘Nudge Unit’ (the Behavioural Insights Team) since 2010. But if we look at the South African context, where we’re faced with high rates of HIV infection, crime, obesity and other socio-economic issues, understanding human behaviour and how to change it from within becomes even more critical.

Since 2012, the WCG has worked with the Research Unit in Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN) at UCT, to create some of these solutions. RUBEN is an interdisciplinary group of researchers using economic research methods to look at how social, cognitive and emotional factors influence our economic decision-making.

One of the first projects piloted was on energy efficiency - encouraging the Western Cape Government to cut down on energy consumption. We wanted to understand why employees were leaving lights on all weekend, and nudge them to switch lights off.

We identified 6 behavioural bottlenecks that were standing in the way of energy efficient behaviour:

  1. Diffused responsibility: employees not understanding whose responsibility it was.

  2. Moral justification: public service employees felt they were contributing positively to the environment already.

  3. Unit confusion: employees not understanding the significance of simply switching off a light.

  4. Limited attention: forgetfulness played a big part in this.

  5. Identity: when employees were in “work mode” they forgot their energy efficient behaviour from home.

  6. Social norms: there was no reference point for personal energy consumption in relation to colleagues.

We used these insights to design an intervention that led to a 14% reduction in energy, which was deemed statistically significant. This is one of the aspects of BI that is so beneficial to policy: by measuring the results, you gain an understanding of what works - and doesn’t work - before you roll out the policy to everyone.

Behavioural Insights offers a set of tools and methodologies that we can use make a real difference in South Africa.

If you would like to keep track, or get involved, please engage using the hashtag #BI4gov on Twitter or @bi4gov.

13 Essential Behavioural Insights for Changemakers

13 Essential Behavioural Insights for Changemakers

Behavioural Insights (BI) offers a set of proven methods that can be used. The field combines elements of psychology, cognitive science and social science to understand how people actually make decisions. These principles of BI are fascinating and apply to all of our lives and decisions. This article provides an overview of 13 proven principles that can be used to nudge our choices and actions.

The Taste Gap

The Taste Gap

So many of us get into social media because we admire the work of creatives in the field, the brilliant memes, the awe inspiring videos, the perspective altering tweets. But there’s a gap when we start. What we produce doesn’t live up to our own expectations. Ira Glass’ insights on the creative process remind us to push through the frustrating beginnings of creative work, and keep working until what we produce reflects our good taste

The Simple Trick to Finding the Most Connected and Influential People in a Social Network

The Simple Trick to Finding the Most Connected and Influential People in a Social Network

We're all embedded in vast social networks of friends, family, co-workers and more. Nicholas Christakis tracks how a wide variety of traits can spread from person to person, showing how your location in the network might impact your life in ways you don't even know. Christakis highlights how new forms of data collection allow us to locate the central people within a network and ultimately "use these insights to improve society and improve human well-being."