Abu Dhabi plans innovative ways to ‘nudge’ away social issues.


The research will apply the nudge theory to government work in a way that positively influences the behaviour of individuals.

A year-long scientific research will be carried out in Abu Dhabi to study and design innovative solutions to address social issues like defaulting on debts, enhancing child care, increasing physical activities and promoting family cohesion, among others. These issues were identified by the Department of Community Development (DCD) through its ‘Quality of Life 2018’ survey.

The DCD on Wednesday inked an agreement with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) for research in the field of behavioural economics and social change. NYUAD researchers will apply the ‘nudge theory’ to come up with easy-to-implement and cost-effective solutions to the social issues.

Hamad Al Dhaheri, acting undersecretary, DCD, said: “The research will apply the nudge theory to government work in a way that positively influences the behaviour of individuals, supporting the department’s vision that aims at providing a decent life to all members of society. We will work to ensure access to the latest international scientific methodologies to study and analyse their impact on the local community.”

Mariet Westermann, vice-chancellor, NYUAD, felt it was important to build active, tolerant and inclusive communities and the agreement was a way to achieve those objectives.

“The research will have a team of specialists to identify and analyse areas of concern according to priorities. This is followed by the design phase, where measurable, easy-to-implement, and inexpensive innovative solutions are developed. After that, and in collaboration with NYUAD, the DCD will carry out experimentation and testing to assess the success of the proposed solutions.”

What is nudge theory?

Nudge theory is a form of policy intervention, which aims to assist people make better choices. Nudge concept uses behavioural economics, a scientific method for studying and trying to predict human behaviour.

“We will discuss with the DCD potential issues and look at existing data to how to diagnose causes,” said NYUAD professors Nikos Nikiforakis and Ernesto Reuben. Picking on a social issue of debt default, they said: “We will look at characteristics of people who default. We will be able to understand the real reasons and then if there is a remedy. There could be different solutions.”

Four-stage research project

1-Identify and diagnose social issues

2-Design policy intervention to address likely causes

3-Test effectiveness of remedy

4-Implementat the policy.

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