Announcing our newest Pioneer/Changemakers competition (nudge, nudge...)

Jan 28, 2009, 8:40 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

People can be so…so…so stubborn. They know the right thing to do—eat servings of fruits and vegetables every day—they just don’t do it. Or they don’t get around to doing it. Or they do it for a little while—exercise for 30 minutes every day—and then they stop doing it. Or their environment creates barriers to doing it.

One way to think about it is that, often, life gets in the way doing the right thing. The kids, the job, the economy (“What the hell? Where did my 401k go??) all compete for time and attention. And sometimes, it’s not life, but the choice itself that gets in the way. Any of you who spent time trying to help an older parent figure out what choice to make under Medicare Part D knows what I mean when I say some choices are just too complicated. When faced with making a complicated choice in real life, many of us end up making choices that aren’t the best ones we could make.

We’ve launched a global competition looking for “nudges,” innovative little pushes – that help people make better decisions regarding their own health and the health of others. The competition is co-sponsored by Ashoka’s Changemakers project and is based on the ideas put forth by Richard Thayler and Cass Sunstein in their book Nudge. Here’s an example of a nudge focusing on wearing motorcycle helmets: instead of making helmet-wearing mandatory, you permit people to ride without a helmet…but only if they qualify for a special helmet-less motorcycle license. To qualify, they’d need to pass a class that improves their riding skills and they’d have to carry an extra amount of insurance. The goal is not to remove someone’s ability to make choices, but, rather to “nudge” them in the direction of the better choice.

If you think you have a good nudge, you can enter the competition here

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.