Caitlin Anzelone, Director of MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science (CABS), has authored a chapter in a new book, Behavioral Public Policy in a Global Context: Practical Lessons from Outside the Nudge Unit, edited by Michael Sanders, Syon Bhanot, and Shibeal O’Flaherty and published by Palgrave Macmillan. The book unearths some of the stories and insights from pioneers in applied behavioral science, in their own words. How did their teams come about, and how did they grow? What projects have worked, and which have not? What have they learned, and what would they recommend to others seeking to build behavioral science teams of their own?
Anzelone’s chapter, “Designing for Social Impact: Behavioral Science Field Studies to Improve Economic Mobility,” recounts MDRC’s creation of CABS in 2017 to systematically incorporate behavioral insights into programs and policies that impact individuals with low incomes. She describes a collaborative, iterative approach to behavioral science research, offering examples from field studies designed to improve the lives of individuals and families experiencing poverty.
The volume also includes a chapter, “Launching the First Federal Effort to Apply Behavioral Science to U.S. Human Services Programs,” by Emily Schmitt, Amanda Benton, Kimberly Clum, and Marie Lawrence, which details the efforts of the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, in the Administration for Children and Families, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to stand up a portfolio of work using behavioral science to diagnose problems that federally funded human services programs were facing, design behaviorally informed interventions to address these challenges, and test the interventions with randomized controlled trials. CABS has been a key partner in that effort.