BI podcast transcription: North Yorkshire County Council


Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Nudges for Social Good, the LGA's podcast on behaviour change. My name is Rhian Gladman and I manage the LGA's support to council behaviour change projects across the country. So, the aim of this podcast is to demystify this subject and to help you councillors and officers who are listening to it to set up your own behavioural insights projects, and approaches to address your biggest challenges locally. So, today I'm joined by Ruth Little from North Yorkshire County Council. Hi Ruth, how are you today?

Ruth Little: I'm well thank you.

Moderator: Excellent, excellent. Ruth, thanks so much for being with us today, virtually of course. You're the first guest we've had on the podcast via Teams, so thank you for that. I understand today you're going to talk to us about a behavioural insights project that you've been running in North Yorkshire throughout this COVID time. So, obviously, very relevant to other councils across the country and there will be lots of learning that they can obviously take forward in their own local places. So, Ruth, I just wanted to start by asking, what's your role with the council?

Ruth Little: Okay, so, I am the School Readiness Coordinator for North Yorkshire County Council. So, at the moment we're running a variety of pilot activities based around raising a good level of development around speech, language and communication. So, I'm coordinating that pilot work currently.

Moderator: Excellent, great stuff. Busy times, busy times no doubt, as it is for everyone in local government. So, just to start off I think it would be really useful if you could explain in your words, from start to finish, your behavioural insights project and then we'll, sort of, get into a discussion and I can ask follow-up questions and unpick anything that we want to go into more detail with.

Ruth Little: Yes, okay. So, initially when we entered onto the LGA BI programme, we were looking at School Readiness obviously as an area that we would like to look at using BI, and a BI approach to. So, obviously that work began at the beginning of the year. We did identify a provider for that work, which was the Behavioural Insights Team, and as we were having some initial discussions about what that piece of work was going to look like, the situation in the country changed dramatically and, obviously, the pandemic struck and we went into lock down. And that was just as we were having these development discussions with the Behavioural Insights Team. And at that point, we had a bit of a shift in our conversations and actually began to think about, to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, whether we could redirect the, sort of, focus of the project to support with our coronavirus response in North Yorkshire. Obviously, we discussed that with the Behavioural Insights Team and we discussed it with yourselves at the LGA and we were all, sort of, in mutual agreement that actually being responsive to what was happening, it was a good turn of approach to redirect and to focus on something that was going to support our approach in North Yorkshire, as to what was happening.

So, following that initial decision of making that step into switching the focus of the work, we pulled together a project group. So, the project group that we established initially for the School Readiness work needed to change slightly in its composition and we formed a project group from across North Yorkshire County Council, with representatives from our Strategy and Performance Team, from Public Health, and our Communications Team. And I continued to lead on the project, because I'd obviously, you know, started off with the project and was familiar with the format. So, I stayed in place as the project lead but we had, you know, a good mix of relevant people from the council involved in the project group. And through that, we did do a lot of consultation as well, with our HR team and also our Stronger Communities Team during that. Even though they didn't sit on the actual project group, they were very very much involved in the discussion around that.

I think initially, because obviously with the pandemic, everybody in the council was affected by that. So, the key stakeholders in that process could have been vast, you know, there were lots and lots of people who were doing lots and lots of work around the response. So, actually for us it worked better to have a really focused, little team of key people that were going to keep the focus on the BI work, but also be really effective at cascading that, to make sure that it wasn't lost within the wider work that was happening, and that everybody was informed. So, in order to, sort of, decide what we were going to do in terms of the BI work, we had a number of exploratory discussions to occupy the Behavioural Insights Team, about what were the key issues that we were seeing in North Yorkshire and identifying what behaviours that we wanted to either encourage or change. And we started off with a very, very long list of what that would be-,

Moderator: I can imagine, I can imagine, yes.

Ruth Little: Yes. So, this actually was the time where everybody was out in the shops, panic buying, you know, it was quite near the beginning when things were feeling quite crazy in the world. But through that process of just honing that down and really focusing on what was going to be the best course of action for North Yorkshire, we ended up with two teams primarily which were the Community, so really mobilising our communities to support each other, doing a favour for a neighbour and those sorts of themes. And also on the other side, having a focus on staff well-being, particularly around people who were suddenly working from home, many of those who were also juggling that with home-schooling children, and actually looking at what we could use from the behavioural insights work to support those, sort of, two key areas.


Moderator: So, if I could just jump in there, Ruth, sorry. So, just to make that really clear to people listening. So, the original project you were looking at encouraging School Readiness in the local, you know, family populations, and then Corona hits and then the pivot is that you look to these two areas of trying to encourage the behaviour of the communities supporting each other, and also the behaviour around staff well-being in working in these very new ways at a very difficult time. But you had a long list, so how were those two particular areas identified as being the key priorities?


Ruth Little: I think what we wanted to do is we didn't want just to be caught up in the short-sightedness of what was happening at that time. And actually we wanted to do something that would outlive the pandemic, that actually, you know, those areas of encouraging communities to support each other and also encouraging our staff with more agile working, actually those have longevity. However, you know, obviously the timescales on a lot of that was pushed up because of the pandemic and people suddenly were pushed into that position, but actually for us, those were two key things that we wouldn't just lose the use of after the pandemic is over, even though we don't know when that is going to be. And also, I think that the impact, particularly around the well-being of staff, you know, that has always been one of our key priorities, really, in the council, and it felt like that that was a very, very good use of the funding that we have and the expertise that we had in terms of Behavioural Insights Team.


Moderator: So, they're two areas the council would be looking to work on anyway, despite COVID, COVID has obviously brought them into greater focus. So, you wanted as a council to be working to encourage that community activity and volunteering and building that capacity with the community to help each other anyway, and also you were looking at more agile ways of how staff can work in different ways and transform services to be more responsive to the community and so these two things actually you see going beyond COVID anyway and being things you wanted to work on. And I guess what you learn from this, you can bring back to the School Readiness stuff when that all, you know, gets back to the sort of new normal, whatever that may look like.


Ruth Little: Yes. And I think that, for us, despite the actual focus of the project, there's always been a huge element in the ambition for this project, that this is the beginning of the story for North Yorkshire in behavioural insights work. That actually we do want to learn. We want to learn about the approach, we want to learn how to embed that in other aspects, so absolutely, you know, the learning that we've had from the COVID project certainly can be fed into what we're doing about School Readiness, other elements of work. Because actually part of the piece of work that we wanted to work with this on was that up-skilling of our own work force around behavioural insights so that, yes, that approach can continue once this piece of work is completed.


Moderator: So, you've got your two areas. I guess the next stage in this story with a behavioural insights project is that then you will go and, you know, gain insights and gain understanding and observe the behaviours in the local community, or with your stakeholders or with your staff, of the behaviour you want to change. And traditionally, we would have gone out and run focus groups or, you know, gone and observed, I don't know with the School Readiness stuff you may have been working with Health Visitors in peoples' homes. COVID hits and that all completely changes as an approach. So, how have you done that behavioural insights, kind of, gathering and understanding of the behaviour?


Ruth Little: Yes. I mean, what we did have running in North Yorkshire for the pandemic was various different work streams that were really focusing in on certain aspects. So, we did have a staff well-being group that was made up of people from HR, Public Health, you know, that were really having a focus on what was happening and what support staff may need. And we also on the other side had a Community focus group which were looking at setting up support groups within the community to assist. So, actually we really pulled on that wealth of knowledge and got key people, you know, with a lot of expertise in those groups to report back about what they were finding, what were their key themes that they were seeing through the work they were doing. And actually incorporating that to make sure that we were incorporating that in the work that we were doing around the behavioural insights. I don't know if that makes sense, but-


Moderator: No it's fine. Just for those listening I guess who will be looking at, how do you engage with a community virtually? For all sorts of other things they might be wanting to do on Test and Trace and local outbreak management, all sort of other things they might be looking to do. So, how did that work virtually? With the staff well-being Group and the community groups as well?


Ruth Little: I mean, I think obviously our comms team were involved in the project and, again, were absolute key links and this, that they were using social media platforms and the information that was going out on there, and also gathering those key themes that were coming up as responses to the things that we were putting out. And really feeding that back into the project. I mean, the pace at which these things evolved in those early discussions was literally week-by-week, the themes were changing as to what was happening in the country and what we were being told. And actually that was a real pressure, because one week we could be thinking, 'Actually, you know, this is a really key thing that is coming into the council at this precise moment', and then the next week, and another announcement had come out and things had completely changed and the responses changed that. So, it was really, really tricky and one of the massive challenges of this project, that we were dealing with something that was changing so frequently. And for me as a project manager, it was always an anxiety that we were going to miss the boat on something. Because there did have to be a point where we said, 'Okay, this is it, this is our focus, and we're going to go with it', but then we didn't really know, by the time we'd actually done that piece if things would look the same or whether that would be relevant anymore.


So, that was one of the pressures and I think, again, this is why we really tried to choose something that would have impact regardless of whether things were likely to change. So, yes, it was a challenge and obviously the traditional methods of the Behavioural Insights Team about going out and asking those questions in the community, you know, just wasn't possible at that time, but it was really drawing into the key things that were being said into those community work streams. So, fairly untraditional, but it some ways we just a fantastic amount of response. I think, because of the information flooding in, there was so much information that actually that was quite rich, that we could really identify some of the key things that were being repeated over and over again. That would be the basis to build that on really. So, yes, I don't know if that fully answers your question.


Moderator: Yes, yes. So, I guess, I think your use of the word 'untraditional' is really important there. And actually doing this engagement activity in a completely different way, forced to, you know, it was forced to by the restrictions on us, and actually you've ended up with a richer insight and more information coming back in potentially than if you had done it in those more traditional ways. So, whilst, you know, you were saying these two challenges and things the council was looking to do anyway and work on and will do in the longer term, could this more virtual communication and virtual engagement of people to understand behaviours, could be something that you take forward as a council, you know, into the future as well. So, what were the kind of insights that you were getting back, what were things that you were learning before you set up your intervention?


Ruth Little: I mean, I think in terms of the communities, I think the things that we were learning was there had been a huge change in peoples' attitudes towards community action, volunteering, actually going out there and helping people in need, you know. And actually for us, that was something that we absolutely wanted to capitalise on and we wanted that to continue after the initial, you know, surge of changing of attitudes at the beginning of the pandemic. Which again in some ways has been a real challenge for us in terms of evaluation because there was a big surge in change of behaviour and attitudes anyway, that was due to the pandemic and the change of things in the country. So, yes, certainly there was a willingness there and communities getting out there and pulling together, but it was about nurturing that and, you know, really really pushing that forward.


And then on the staff well-being side of things, we were very conscious of isolation, you know, people feeling disconnected from teams, from that sort of support from colleagues and managers. Obviously, huge amounts of anxiety from staff around the juggling working with children at home, you know, and the fact that there possibly needed to be more flexibility in that, to make that work for parents. So, there was lots of anxiety around that and also in terms of the staff well-being, I think it was just having the ability to access support. Whereas, traditionally, if you were having an issue you may just speak to your colleague in the office, or you may just have a quick word with your manager because that sort of net is slightly taken away, it was about how the staff can access that well-being support, when they're out of that office environment, I think was one of the areas that was key for us to look at.


Moderator: Really important, really important. Can I ask there Ruth as well, I mean something that we've been picking up at the LGA with other councils, I wonder if this has been the case in North Yorkshire. So, you've got people that might have joined the council really recently, either just before the pandemic or within the lockdown period may have started work at the council, and also that cohort of people who may be really new in their career, maybe younger people or people who have switched from private sector to working in the council, so they're new within their career in North Yorkshire. Were you picking up things from those groups around, you know, not having the access to informal networking opportunities, the mentoring opportunities, the seeing others doing their work in the office and learning through osmosis, really? I wonder did any of that stuff come out through your staff well-being insight gathering?


Ruth Little: I mean, to be honest, for this particular project, we didn't have that as a particular insight. I think probably because a lot of the work on this happened so quickly, near the beginning of the pandemic that actually, that has certainly been something that has come into play during the next few months, but because a lot of the work happened very quickly at the beginning of the pandemic, it wasn't necessarily something that appeared high on the agenda there. However, as we've gone along, you know, and as new staff have been recruited and started there's issues around, how do you do an induction, and how do you make people feel part of the team and part of North Yorkshire? You know, that is again a challenge. But actually what we've got as an output from the project, they're lessons that can be applied to other things and actually as we've developed, the core learning that we've had from the project, as you say, can be applied to a range of different scenarios. So, yes, I think the osmosis of that sort of approach, you know, is going out into the general consciousness for all of those other issues that potentially come up along the way.  


Moderator: Yes. That's interesting because you were doing your insight gathering very quickly, right at the start of, you know, this new way of working in lockdown, but then you've started to see that pattern emerge as we've gone through and more people have come into the council to work or change teams or things like that. There's been churn, hasn't there as well, as people have moved to different parts of the response and then onto recovery as well. So, that's really helpful, I just wanted to sort of check in with that with you.


So, you've gone out, you've selected your two areas, two behaviours you want to focus on, pivoting from the School Readiness project really quickly, you've engaged stakeholders across the council, you've engaged your staff engagement group and your community groups virtually. All this flood of insight has come in, you're drowning in all of this stuff, which is great. But then, can you describe to me how did you get to your interventions, and what were those behavioural change interventions that you trialled?


Ruth Little: Yes. So, again, we had a lot of discussion about what format this intervention will take. And we took obviously a lot of guidance from Behavioural Insights about, you know, what would work, what would be the mediums and we discussed potentially having a text messaging system that could go out to staff, sending out these messages. Obviously we have lots of social media, both external and internal that we can use as channels. We also had, you know, our senior management team who would send out very regular communications. I think we looked at so many different communication channels that were happening and thought that actually, what would be really, really useful for us is to have something that would work for multiple communication channels. Rather than just say, 'Yes, we're going to do text messaging', and be sort of tied to that medium, but actually having this layer up of, 'These are some resources that we can use across different communications channels', and then that would go across the board really, for all the different activities that were happening. I will say, as well, what we did have in mind when we were talking about that was data governance.


Moderator: Yes, really important. Could you say more about that, please?


Ruth Little: Yes, I mean I think it was really important for us because we were up against such a tight timescale that we couldn't afford to have any issues or blockers in terms of data governance. So, if we're thinking about sending out text messages to all staff, you know, not all staff have a work mobile, are we thinking of going to home mobiles, actually we probably need to go through data governance with that. And all of those things were just on hold. Which again, I think, that's why we chose to go down the broader route of having a resource that could be used in different ways, that we could use it for text messages or we could use it for, you know, social media.


And actually also, for the Behavioural Insights Team to give us some guidance around how you might adapt things for different mediums to make it a really, really usable resource that would work across the council, you know, and could fit a lot of different purposes. So, yes, the GDPR thing did have a major impact because, as I say, we just didn't have time really to go through a long piece of work that got out any data governance issues with that. So, yes, that's how we ended up with, basically, a message bank. So, a set of different messages based around different themes linked to the two major themes, and actually looking at different types of behaviour nudges that can be used for those scenarios. So, we agreed on a bank of 50 messages for each community and staff well-being that could be there just to be used by the multiple people who were, sort of, involved in those wider work streams. And particularly for our comms team to use as a resource to weave through the wider comms for those work streams.


Can you share an example of a, sort of, message that would go through the message bank and come out the other end behavioural-ified? If that's even a term, I don't know, making things up here. Yes, so if you could share an example of that please that would be great.


So, the quote here, so one of the behaviour insights messages here that I've got is: 'This week, we're thinking of all the parents at North Yorkshire County Council who are balancing working from home with childcare. Thank you for doing your job in really challenging circumstances. If there was one piece of advice that you'd give to a parent in a similar situation, what would it be? Submit ideas here and we'll share them with other North Yorkshire County Council parents on the intranet next week.'


Okay, so that's one of the messages in the message bank, and actually the behavioural science and insights that sit behind that is it's creating a sense of community through storytelling amongst parents that can build resilience. So that's the behavioural insight behind that type of message and actually, these messages were used for one of our communications campaigns, our internal communications campaign called 'Home but not Alone' which was actually, you know, focusing on that community of North Yorkshire County Council staff who were at home and consisted of some, sort of, short case studies about how people adapted to working from home. So, these behavioural insights messages were taken and adapted for that campaign. So, it's available. And actually the nudge there was to access the staff well-being resources which have been named '#AskSAL', so that hashtag is saved with those sort of messages that direct people to accessing the well-being resources which are on our intranet.


Moderator: So it's #AskSal. And I guess why that's really powerful is it's just, exactly, you're not alone, it's the social norms stuff, isn't it? Actually, a lot of us at the council are struggling to home school kids, it's not just me. And there's also something in the helping your peers and actually learning from your peer and someone who's in the same position as you, they're really strong sort of behavioural nudges aren't they as well. So, yes, that's a really good example, thank you for that. Were there any examples on the community engagement side you'd like to share?


Okay, so there's a message here on the bank which is: 'Can you think of a time when you were having a bad day and a small act of kindness made it better? Maybe someone in the street smiled at you or a friend gave you a surprise phone call. Seemingly small acts make a huge difference, especially during these difficult times. What small act of kindness can you do for someone today?'. The behavioural technique used here is evoking reciprocity, and can make people more likely to perform altruistic behaviour.


Moderator: Spot on. Good stuff. So was that delivered through-, it's quite a long message isn't it so I'm thinking that wasn't on Twitter?


Ruth Little: No, no. I mean, some of the behavioural insights messages that are on the bank, you know, are quite long for different mediums. And part of the project was the Behavioural Insights Team to have a session with our comms team to talk about how they could adapt those different messages for different mediums such as if it was going out on Facebook. The Volunteers Week campaign contained a lot of the behavioural insights messages and weren't necessarily in that full form but as I say, the Behavioural Insights Team trained our comms team to adapt those so they could be delivered in that different way really. And some of the messages were shorter than others. So, some of the messages were not appropriate for, you know, different mediums of communication.


Moderator: Good stuff, good stuff. And it's good for us at the LGA to understand that the long-term sustainability of this work in North Yorkshire because, you know, you've had your comms team trained up in how to adapt these messages now so they can undertake that work going forward. You've got the message bank there with your messages in perpetuity, like that's there, that's yours. And also, we would encourage other councils to take a look at that and we will share the links on our behavioural insights webpage which I will give the link to at the end of the podcast, so yes, stay tuned for that. So yes, on long-term sustainability, it's really important that this stuff can carry on, it won't just stop at the end of this project and at the end of this funding for the Behavioural Insights Team, it will continue to grow and you can continue to adapt those messages to other services and other behaviour you want to sort of affect locally as well.


Excellent stuff, I mean again, this is just off the top of my head, so don't worry if you can't answer it we can sort of take it out, but yes. Just thinking in terms of big behaviour we want to change within the communities around Test and Trace and adherence to the COVID regulations, and shielding was a big thing, check up on your neighbours, so. Have you used the messages in those sort of instances as well, or has it been more generic around 'Help out your neighbours', rather than the COVID regulations as such?


Ruth Little: Yes. Well interestingly, we did have a conversation very early on about what route we wanted to go down on that really. And at that time, at the very beginning of the lockdown, there was a huge amount of messages from central government going out with those, you know, very strong messages around the restrictions, etc, and we thought that we didn't want to overload, because there was so much of it out there, that people would just get fatigued with it. So actually that's one of the reasons why we chose to go down this slightly different focus on that, because we discussed in the project group because there was such a wealth of information out there, just at that particular time, you know, and I think the whole nation was glued to their devices and TVs looking for the next update, so it was very, very visible. We thought that, you know, to do something slightly different from that, that wasn't already being done from a national perspective, would be a better use of this particular funding and project. But we definitely did consider that, you know, and it was discussed in quite detail really at the beginning, about where we would get that balance and what that would look like.


Moderator: Makes complete sense. And it might be you come back to it later on for local outbreak management and stuff, you might come back to it for your own, sort of, local messaging at a later date, so no, that makes complete sense. So, what was the impact of your interventions? What were the results?


Ruth Little: Well, as I say, we're at the stage where we've got some initial results that have come in. If I just scroll down. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was really hard to take any baseline measurements here, because by the time we started things had already started to change anyway. So, we have looked at the various different ways of actually doing that. In terms of the community side of it, some results that we've just had back this week actually, is from our North Yorkshire Views Survey, which we'll be using as an evaluation tool. The current situation is, 52% of respondents from the public in North Yorkshire say that they formally volunteer once a week. And the comparison to that in North Yorkshire from 2018, the last time that this question was asked, the figure there was 42%. So, that's a 10% increase that we've had on people actively volunteering. And comparing that to a national figure as well, from 2019-20, there were 23% nationally who responded that they formally volunteer once a month. So, those are the sorts of figure that we're coming up with in terms of formal volunteering.


On the other side of that, as I've mentioned a few times, the 'favour for a neighbour' theme of the more informal volunteering. So, the results that we've got here were at the moment, currently we've got 45% of our respondents saying that they have done informal volunteering within the last month and the comparison for that is the national figures 2019-20 at 28%, so again, we're considerably higher in North Yorkshire with that. And, the only other extra, sort of, bit on that really is, during the lockdown, we did ask a question on specifically during the lockdown. And during the lockdown, we did have 57% of respondents who have volunteered during the lockdown with an additional 3% who did volunteer, but were not needed. So, that's 60%. So, actually during that period of the lockdown, the figures were even higher. As I say, these results are fairly new in and there are some-, it was quite a comprehensive survey that was done with our community, so there potentially is some other bits and pieces in there, that when we've done a bit more analysis we can draw on. But those are the obviously from, you know, the initial sorts of feelings as to what we're seeing. So, yes, it's significantly higher than previous responses in other years, and also very significantly higher than national figures. So, we obviously have seen a significant change in people's behaviours towards volunteering in North Yorkshire. So, yes.


Moderator: Great results, great results. Yes, it's like you say, how do you harness that going forwards? And yes, that sort of up-tick in that local goodwill and build that capacity going forward. I think it's just really important. So, that's your sort of quantitative data isn't it? I wonder have you had any, excuse me, anything more qualitative feedback to the messaging, or, you know, are your comms team picking up anything in terms of click-through rates on the website or more people signing up to the Twitter account? Are there any other stats around the qualitative side and also the feedback from your comms team, for example?


Ruth Little: So, the comms team have said where they used the social norms approach, which is part of the BI messaging, of highlighting that 86% of people had asked for and had help from a neighbour during the pandemic, the people commented to highlight their own examples of how positive the community response had been. So, there was lots and lots of community engagement from those messages where they used the behavioural insight to, sort of, do the social norms approach, that there was a really high level of engagement from the public with those posts. So, yes, very positive response feedback from our comms team on that one.


Moderator: So, where people are asked to actually share their experiences and share what they've done, those behavioural techniques really help to elicit that response from people in a way that your comms team hadn't seen with previous campaigns potentially?


Ruth Little: Yes, yes. And that sort of real buy in and engagement from the community in, sort of, relating to those messages. That, 'Actually, yes I've got something to share because this is my experience'. So, yes. Really noticeable response to that campaign that was good. Just to add as well, at that point, actually there is a follow-up campaign that's going on at the moment which they are also drawing on the message bank for. So, again, there's going to be a follow-up campaign to reinforce those messages as well using the behavioural insights. So, it's not that we've just used them for one particular campaign and that's it. Again, it's that whole idea of this is a usable document and this is something that's going to inform practice, you know, in the long-term.


Moderator: Yes. My next question was going to be really, how are you going to take these results forward? What are the next steps for the projects?


Ruth Little: Yes. So, in terms of next steps, obviously there is going to be an evaluation, so we are going to, you know, put together the figures alongside the anecdotal evidence there, to actually present a good evaluation. I think that we have done a massive amount of learning that we've had internally from the Behavioural Insights Team in terms of up-skilling us and I think that there is a strategy that is developing around embedding behavioural insights into the wider work at the council. And yes, I think it's just making sure that we don't lose this. That once the evaluation is done and the project is done, that it just doesn't get brushed aside and forgotten about that actually, this is just a continual approach of embedding it and, you know, actually we've seen that it's a good approach and it works, and actually looking for different opportunities where we can use that approach.


Some examples, we've certainly looked at using a behavioural insights approach with some of the work with our libraries, so we have used that learning into an approach for the libraries, particularly around School Readiness. Because obviously I still have a lot of learning from this and then looking at my own projects and trying to, you know, embed that in my own project. We've been looking at some fostering campaigns that we're looking at that we're wanting to look at embedding some behavioural insights into. So, there are lots and lots of different avenues where we can look at rolling out the approach. And as I say, it's more that we just don't want this to be finished and then that to be it. You know, it is the start of the development in North Yorkshire for this work.


Moderator: Yes. I think a key win for you guys really was involving all those stakeholders really early on. comms team involvement, you know, skilling them up, bringing that additional capacity to the Behavioural Insights Team, train them up on the messages so they feel confident using them. And you want it to become the way that the council communicates, really, is in that style, while obviously doing regular evaluation and checking the impact of those communications and those campaigns as well. So, really interesting, Ruth. I mean, if I was sitting in a council now, what are the top three tips that you would give me? If I was going to implement a similar intervention on staff well-being, encouraging community engagement, what are the three top tips you would give me?


Ruth Little: Yes, well actually that leads me quite nicely into my top tips, because one of my top tips to communicate really effectively with the senior leadership and stakeholders involved in this. Be very, very open and communicative about what you're doing, then it just doesn't end up being just a little project that somebody's doing that isn't connected to anything else. So, actually that communication is really, really key. And I won't take, you know, complete credit for that, I think it worked really, really well in the COVID project, but we had really good support from my senior management who were very good at facilitating that higher level communication. And also really, really good support from our Public Health team who, again, were really key in pulling that together, making sure that everybody could see the link through the behavioural insights work and everything else that was going on. So, that felt like that was an absolutely major part of why this worked so well, you know, and just didn't become tokenistic.


Moderator: And at such a busy time, with everything else going on. And you should take some credit, Ruth, because you've worked really hard, so you should take some credit, so don't be modest on that. You've put a lot of effort into this, so yes, it doesn't just happen by accident.


Ruth Little: Thank you, yes. But I certainly do not feel like I've worked in isolation, you know, I really, really have a great team. There are people that I probably haven't really ever met before that just very, very quickly fall together, you know, and made it happen. So, you know, couldn't praise them more really. And yes, obviously the Behavioural Insight Team as well, really really key in that at just being a really good sounding board and being a really good source of knowledge as to how we can make it work, you know. And it was just drawing all that together and then making sure that that was really well communicated, you know, throughout the council.


Second top tip. Again, I've talked about this already. With the data governance. So, get your data governance representative there right at the start, so when you're coming up with all these wonderful ideas of where the project might go, you've got somebody who can be the voice of reason saying, 'Well, actually yes we can do that but if we do that, then we're going to have to do X, Y and Z.' Which means that, you know, you can keep the pace up on the project and you don't go down the route of doing lots and lots of work with one aim in mind and then just hitting a brick wall where you can't actually progress any further. So, yes, do get the data governance people involved straight away. As I say, we deliberately chose something that we knew wasn't going to have data governance barriers for this project-,


Moderator: So important, so important to get your data governance person in the room early. So important, so yes, I'm really glad you've highlighted that key tip.


Ruth Little: Yes. And actually, you know, that was good advice from yourselves as well, because remember that was something that we were advised to do and I can see why that is really, really necessary. So, yes, that was my second top tip.


And again, my third top tip really is to just trust your provider. And what I mean by that is, the thing with Behavioural Insight, because often things seem quite simplistic on the surface, but actually there's such a wealth of science and research and knowledge that underpins that, then actually when you're working with your provider, you do have to trust in that expertise and knowledge that they've got to a certain degree. And that doesn't mean that you just have to-, you know, you can't challenge and say, 'Okay, so why are we doing that? Why does it have to be that way?'. Because actually, if you do put a bit of challenge in then that means that it gets explained and you understand it better. You know, but actually, certainly for us in this particular project, we did have to just think, 'Well actually the Behavioural Insight Team are the experts in this and we're going to take their lead and allow them to support us and really guide us as to where we need to go for the best outcome'.


And I think again that comes with forming a really good working relationship with your provider. I would certainly feel by the end of this project that, you know, in terms of the working relationship that we've established with our provider is really, really positive and very, very balanced in terms of we feel like we can say things to them and say, 'Hang on a minute mate, what does this mean?', and they're very happy to work with us in that way. And I think through that, sort of, batting forwards of ideas and questions and all of that, we've ended up with a much higher quality output on this project. And again, I think, you know, that was a really good asset of having a good mix of project teams from different disciplines of the council so that everybody had something slightly different to bring to that. But yes, that would be my other top tip really.


Moderator: Yes, and I guess you've had the benefit of that in-depth academic research, you know that real in-depth expert from Behavioural Insights Team, that now you have your message bank there, what we would encourage other councils to come and learn from you so that you don't need to go through and have that in-depth academic, sort of, rigour because actually you've got an intervention there that your own evaluation is showing has worked. And you're going to do further evaluation there, so we would encourage other councils to pick up your intervention and try and apply it locally, quickly, obviously involving their information governance colleagues as well. Because, you know, it's been proved to work so they don't need to start from scratch and get a supplier in, they can actually pick up what you've already done. And that's why we were so keen at the LGA to support you in this work. So, yes, they're great top tips definitely for others to take away as they try to implement your nudge, which is what we want them to do.


So, a final question really from me, is what are the behaviours that you see changing because of COVID-19 in your local communities in North Yorkshire? It would be really interesting to understand a bit more of that from your perspective, and see how that will chime with the listeners across the country. And then, how can we sustain the good behaviours, the things that have come out such as the increase in volunteering, how can we sustain those good behaviours going forward?


Ruth Little: Okay. So, in terms of what behaviours we have seen change. I mean, I think one that springs out which is related to our project, is that shift to agile working that actually was fast initially, but actually is still here and, you know, people are getting more used to it and people are starting thinking, 'Well actually, it does work well in some of these ways', and actually starting to really take that on board, rather than just feeling like it's something that's been forced on you. I think that there has been a shift in mindset around people's attitudes to home working beyond, you know, the restrictions. So, from a staff sort of perspective, you know, there's definitely a shift there. Again, to go to the communities, I know you've mentioned that, we do see a sustained level of volunteering, and, you know, that community support that has lived beyond the initial lockdown. And, you know, it is about sustaining that and extending that across, not just the COVID response, actually extending that volunteering across lots of different sectors across North Yorkshire.


Moderator: That's really, really helpful, thank you Ruth. And that brings us to the end, really, so thank you so much for your time. And thank you for speaking to us today, speaking to us via Teams in this, sort of, virtual podcast which is the way that we'll be doing these for the foreseeable future I'm sure. So, thank you so much for your time.

And listeners, really I hope you've enjoyed that conversation with Ruth and that it's inspired you to undertake your own behaviour change projects. Hopefully it's inspired you to, you know, use that message bank approach that they've trialed so successfully in North Yorkshire, and use it and take it to your own communications campaigns locally, in your own council with your own local populations. So, please do visit for access to more resources and case studies from councils. And we'll also, as Ruth said, there's an evaluation and a report that's taking place as a next step for the North Yorkshire project. We'll make sure that goes onto our webpage as well. And please do, you know, visit there for other case studies so that you can actually start to take this up locally and do your own projects really. So, thank you for listening and we'll see you next time.