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Babies of the Borough – using behavioural insights to reduce anti-social behaviour

The 2011 London riots brought vandalism of local businesses, looting and anti-social behaviour problems to many boroughs. The Royal Borough of Greenwich tasked Ogilvy Change with reducing the problem using behavioural insights. Where many would have addressed the issue by recommending an increased police presence, they used just a few cans of spray paint.

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The challenge

How can we reduce antisocial behaviour on the streets of Woolwich following the London riots of 2011?

The solution

We painted the local shop shutters that were initially being torn down in the violence, with the faces of local Woolwich babies. Psychology tells us that baby schema evokes a feeling of caring in humans and lowers anti-social behaviour.  We wanted to harness this insight and deliver it at scale.

The impact

We reduced overall antisocial behaviour in Woolwich by c. 24%. Since the starting salary for a policeman is around £20,000 and painting the shutters cost less than £10,000, we can say that for more than five years service, our intervention cost less than half that of one new police officer.  

Qualitatively we also know that the shutters have made a difference in social cohesion. Zafar Awan, the owner of ‘Cellfone City’ (one of the shops badly damaged during the riots) has said to the BBC that he “would have the shutter down all day if he could” as the locals want to see baby Maxwell.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The paintings are still present on the shutters un-vandalized and the shopkeepers have embraced the idea as their own.

Furthermore, with the support of the Greater London Authority, Babies of the Borough 2 is due to be rolled out in West Ealing very soon.


Trevor Dorling

Director, Digital Greenwich, Royal Borough of Greenwich

Sam Tatam

Behavioural Strategy Director, Ogilvy Change and Ogilvy & Mather Advertising