FIP 91: Alexandra Fiorillo on behavioral science and social impact

Today, we speak with Alexandra Fiorillo of GRID Impact on how to incorporate behavioral design elements into social enterprises to maximize impact.

On this episode:

  • Alexandra defines behavioral design as the integration of the mindsets of the two disciplines of human-centered design and behavioral science. She explains how behavioral science is the study of action-taking and is often very focused on a single moment in time or decision while human-centered design is an empathy-based collaborative process which is used as a problem-solving tool. When these two are combined together, you have a discipline that addresses both how humans actually behave and as well as what their aspirations are.
  • Some of the elements of behavioral science that contribute to behavioral design include biases that create barriers to behavior, such as status quo or default bias. Understanding default bias is important for designers so they can think about how they can develop an active choice set.
  • Alexandra shares some of the ways behavioral design contributes to social enterprises, including helping companies create customer acquisition and retention strategies and develop marketing materials and pricing policies.
  • She goes in-depth on the example of sanitation, noting that just because a toilet is “better” does not mean it is necessarily going to be embraced by customers. Some of the barriers to adopting a new product – especially in the case of sanitation – could include social norms and mental barriers.
  • Another example from the global health field is kangaroo mother care, which Alexandra notes will not be taken up just because it is recommended. In this case, GRID Impact has worked to redesign and test new counseling experiences with families that employ visual story telling methods. As kangaroo mother care use usually drop-offs after hospital discharge, they are also testing a new method of turning the moment of discharge into something celebratory that encourages future use of the method.
  • Some of the practical principles of behavioral designs highlighted by Alexandra include focusing on changing the context of the decision and not the person. She also addresses “nudges” and advises that social enterprises think about incorporating the three principles of nudges: never mislead and always be transparent, always provide people with alternatives, and have a clear reason about why the nudge will ultimately be good for the person that is being nudged.
  • Her final tips are that social entrepreneur leaders should also consider their employees to be their users, focus on redesigning tiny moments, run micro-experiments, make evidence-based decisions, and understanding that some biases can actually be a combination of multiple biases.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Alexandra:

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