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What to expect from BX2018?

13 June 2018

BETA is hosting the upcoming Behavioural Exchange Conference (BX2018). The conference, previously held in Boston at Harvard University, London and Singapore, returns to Australia for its fifth year.

In response to the level of interest we’ve received on the conference, BETA has put together a podcast to answer all your BX2018 questions. The podcast features BETA’s Managing Director, BETA’s BX Conference manager, and one of BETA’s Senior Advisers who attended last year’s conference. Find out:

BETA’s visions for BX2018.

What every participant can expect to take away from the conference.

Who will be speaking and sessions to look forward to, and much more.

To register for the conference, please visit the BX website.


Elaine Ung: Hello and welcome to BETA’s special edition podcast on the upcoming Behavioural Exchange Conference, BX2018. BX2018 will be held over two days: 25-26 June in Sydney at the International Convention Centre. You may or may not have heard of BX, or you've come across it, but wondered, ‘what is this conference’? Or you thought, ‘BX sounds interesting, but I'm not an economist or working in behavioural insights, so why should I attend?’ Well, those are some questions I hope to address and answer in today's episode. Though feel free to check out the website at any time at www.bx-2018.org. In this episode, I'll be talking to BETA's Managing Director, as well as the person putting this fantastic conference together, and someone from BETA who attended last year's conference.

My name's Elaine, and I'm part of BETA, more formally known as the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government. We're part of the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and BETA's mission is to advance the wellbeing of Australians by applying behavioural insights to public policy and administration. Which is a big driver behind why we're hosting BX2018.

Elaine Ung: I'm sure you've heard of the successful ‘nudge’ trial along the lines of, ‘nine out of ten people pay their taxes on time’. But for many of us who work in a general policy area, or in service delivery, this trial may not feel very relevant to us. And because the most common behavioural economics examples we’ve heard about don't necessarily apply to our work, we fall back on traditional models that are actually unrealistic models of behaviour. And even if we develop well intentioned policies, but rely on incorrect assumptions of behaviours, the policies will fall short. And that's exactly why it's so important to use behavioural insights when designing policy. We need to understand realistic human behaviour, and put that at the centre of policy design. So how real consumers and real businesses behave differently in different contexts.

Elaine Ung: If you're still wondering how that applies to you, or whether that's relevant to your own work, at BX2018 we'll be showcasing a whole range of projects from different sectors and different industries, which have used behavioural economics and behavioural insight successfully. And BX2018 will have a special emphasis on the great work already happening here in Australia. So, what exactly is BX? Officially, it's the Behavioural Exchange Conference. And it's the leading international conference on behavioural insights. Which means it's for anyone and everyone whose work involves humans and human interaction. The conference is now in its fifth year, and previously it was held in Boston at Harvard University, London, and last year in Singapore. BX2018 will bring together hundreds of top thinkers in the behavioural economics and behavioural insights field. This includes public sector policy makers, private sector practitioners, students, and academics. Think: Professor Cass Sunstein, the one who brought us the book ‘Nudge’, with co-author and Nobel Prize winner Professor Richard Thaler; and Professor John A List, co-author of ‘The Why Axis’ with fellow professor Uri Gneezy, who we previously interviewed in a BETA podcast.

Elaine Ung: We're holding sessions on behavioural insights and: energy, health, education, violence and crime, and much more. To set the scene and give you some context, I ask Harry some questions on his BX experience. Harry is BETA's Trial Design and Evaluation team's senior adviser. Harry, you went to BX last year. As someone who works in the behavioural economics field, what was the most valuable part of the conference for you?

Harry: Well most of my career's been spent in government, and so the thing that was valuable about this conference was that I got to hear about the way behavioural economics and behavioural insights can be applied to policy issues, can be applied to public administration. So that was interesting in itself. It was interesting to hear the variety of different ways in which that's being done from issues to do with regulation and finance, to the health sector, to a whole variety of others. And related to that was then getting to meet people from different organisations, some behavioural insights units, but also public servants who are interested in this field. And establishing some networks but also hearing about some ideas they've used and learning from them.

Elaine Ung: Absolutely, and I think that's what we're also looking forward to at BX this year. Could you share with us which session from BX2017 was the highlight for you?

Harry: Sure, although it's an invidious question because there were many good presentations. One that struck me was Rayid Ghani's presentation about machine learning and its possible connections with behavioural insights. I suppose it was a highlight for me because although I've been reading about it and working in behavioural economics for a while, I knew very little about machine learning. Rayid's presentation gave a lot of really nice, crisp examples of its potential. And drawing out the way that it might be able to link in with some of the work we do in the behavioural insights field.

Elaine Ung: Great, and it's a growing field from what we're seeing. So very interesting there. You'll be attending BX2018 later this month. Which session or sessions are you looking forward to the most?

Harry: Well I'd like to say the one I'm involved in on policy making and experimentation, but that would be a bit cheap. So the other one that I'm looking forward to is late in the program. And it's looking at getting into some of the deeper policy problems, and seeing where behavioural insights might be able to help there. It's a session with the somewhat ominous title of Violence and Crime. But that’s saying that maybe we can use behavioural insights, even with some of these fundamental problems in society that we try to think about in government and try to address. It'd be really interesting to hear what speakers have to say about that.

Elaine Ung: Lots to look forward to. Thank you Harry.

Harry: Thanks a lot.

Elaine Ung: As you previously heard, BETA is hosting BX2018. I caught up with Tara, the Managing Director of BETA to ask her a few questions about BX. Tara is one of the founding members of BETA. So since its inception in 2016, Tara has been there for the whole ride. Thanks Tara for joining me. You've seen BETA grow and evolve in the last two years. What are BETA's visions for BX2018?

Tara: Thanks Elaine. I'm so happy to be talking about BX with you today. For me, it always comes back to our mission. BETA is a new organisation but we have a strong mission, which is to improve the lives of Australians through the application of behavioural insights to policy. Now we do that directly through many of our projects and our work. But one of the main ways in which we can have an impact on Australians is to raise the profile of behavioural insights in Australia, skill up our Australia Public Service and inspire them to use behavioural insights in policy design. I think that Behavioural Exchange is going to be able to showcase a huge range of Australian case studies of behavioural insights. And I believe BX gives us a platform to show the community how Australia's firmly on the BI map.

Elaine Ung: Fantastic, thank you. And BX is absolutely for everyone. What is one thing every participant can expect to take away from BX2018?

Tara:I can never stop at one thing. So I'm going to give you a few. I reckon I can guarantee every participant will walk away believing they had a fun time: they heard new ideas, they'll be inspired to do new things when they go back to their organisations. And they will have met a whole range of interesting leading experts and practitioners in the field.

Elaine Ung: Great. And just one last question. What are some other side events people can attend if they can't make it to BX this year?

Tara: We have some really exciting side events planned in Canberra in particular. So mark your diaries for Thursday the 28th of June, where we’ll partner with the Institute of Public Administration Australia on a keynote presentation from David Halpern, the CEO of the UK Behavioural Insights Team, and a really exciting panel. So please book your tickets and come along to hear more about behavioural insights around the world if you can't join us in Sydney this year.

Elaine Ung: Thank you so much for your time and we look forward to seeing you at BX2018.

Some great insights there from Tara, BETA's Managing Director, on what you can expect at this year's conference. I wanted to share more about the specific sessions and managed to get a hold of Louise from BETA. Louise is the BX team's leader, and she and her team are the ones behind the scenes bringing this whole event together.

Louise, thanks for taking the time out of your packed schedule to meet with me. So we've already heard Professors Sunstein and List will be attending. Could you give us a sneaky preview of other speakers who will be at BX, and some sessions they'll be involved in?

Louise: Thanks Elaine, it's lovely to chat. Look, we're really pleased to have all of these people coming: all of our international speakers and our Australian speakers that are coming. For example, John List and Cass Sunstein, we're getting incredible interest over the phone and via the info box about that. People are emailing us and ringing us up to say, ‘yes is it real’, and ‘yes can we come?’ And we're saying, ‘we would love you to come’. But we've got such other great Australian speakers coming as well. And I particularly wanted to highlight people like Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr. Tim Soutphommasane. We're so excited to have people like him coming because the opportunity for us to hear about how behavioural economics sits within their world, and how they can use that to shape public policy and to get great outcomes for Australians is just invaluable. We're also looking at representatives coming from Departments of Health across Australia, talking about how they're just looking to be—to share their stories about how the work that they do is so important. It's going to be a great session. A great, great conference.

Elaine Ung: Amazing. And just before you head off, could you give us any hints on some exciting features of BX? Anything you can share with us?

Louise: Well in addition to all the excellent speakers, we're really looking forward to the Rising Star Awards, which are going to be at the end of the first day. The Rising Star Awards are the opportunity for world-renowned judges from Australia and an international perspective to review student applications for the awards. And we've had a great, great amount of entries, and we're really excited that we're actually going to be able to highlight not only the entrants but the winner at the award, and make the presentation in front of everybody and really give them the opportunity to talk to some of the participants at the event and highlight their work. It should be wonderful. We're also, look, I have to put a bit of a plug in because we're really looking forward to some of our sessions which are going to be quite innovative. We're also doing a great debate and it's always great to see speakers up there arguing their point, getting passionate about it, and then getting told no, no, it's time to stop. This is going to be: you need to make your point. It will just be really engaging for the audience.

Elaine Ung: Absolutely. And so much to look forward to. Thanks so much for your time, Louise.

Louise: My pleasure.

Elaine Ung: So hopefully that gives you a flavour of BX more broadly, and some things to look forward to at this year's BX2018. If you have any questions on the conference, please feel free to send them through to the team at infoBX2018@pmc.gov.au. If you'd like to find out more on the conference, check out the website at www.bx-2018.org. There you can register to attend and read more about the speakers you'll be engaging with, and also get a flavour of the themes and topics they're going to cover. My name's Elaine, and you've been listening to a BETA podcast. Until next time.