search advanced search
UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
search menu

Applied Behavioural Science

Applied Behavioural Science

Every day, the decisions and actions of parents, teachers, healthcare workers, community leaders, and policymakers profoundly affect children’s lives. These decisions and actions are themselves influenced by habits, norms, and cues in the social environment that can influence or “nudge” people—for better or worse. Emerging evidence from the sciences of human behaviour can provide actionable insights and practical methods to encourage decisions and habits that secure a better future for all children.

UNICEF has long played a leading role in social and behavioral change programming to help children and young people survive and realize their full potential. UNICEF Innocenti is helping the organization update its approach based on the latest evidence about human behaviour, applying a behavioural lens to identify, understand, and test solutions while scaling up the incorporation of experimental methods and implementation research in our programming.

 We do this by:

  • creating a global research agenda for building a child-focused behavioural science evidence base  
  • capacity building internally and with partners to ethically harness the application of behavioral sciences
  • partnering with research centres, particularly in low- and middle-income countries
  • building local research capacity to ensure decisions are evidence-informed, feasible, adaptive and equitable.

Upcoming work includes:

  • Ethical guidelines for using behavioral sciences with children and adolescents
  • Establishing and co-chairing a virtual behavioral insights research and design laboratory
  • E-learning and webinars to increase internal capabilities to apply behavioral science and encourage South-South exchange
  • Using behavioral sciences-informed interventions to increase uptake of primary health and immunization services in programme countries
  • Supporting UNICEF’s and partners’ capabilities to utilize low-cost field methods to assess the contribution of interventions to outcomes


Ethical Considerations When Applying Behavioural Science in Projects Focused on Children
Publication Publication

Ethical Considerations When Applying Behavioural Science in Projects Focused on Children

Evidence increasingly shows applied behavioural science can positively impact childhood development and contribute to reducing inequalities. However, it is important for practitioners to reflect on the ethical considerations. For example, are you confident that the intervention is unlikely to have unintended harmful consequences? Or, is it easy for child recipients to opt out of the intervention? To better understand these impacts, we consulted children in Australia, Chile and Ghana, interviewed subject matter experts and practitioners, and conducted a targeted literature review. This paper distils our findings and provides examples of how evidence-based interventions can meaningfully impact children’s futures. It is accompanied by a toolkit to guide and support practitioners through key ethical decision points.


Cross-sectoral Learning in Implementation Research
Event Event

Cross-sectoral Learning in Implementation Research

Implementation Research is an innovative approach to systems strengthening in which decision-makers and implementers use research to overcome implementation bottlenecks and improve outcomes.
Ethical considerations when applying behavioural science in projects with children
Event Event

Ethical considerations when applying behavioural science in projects with children

(26 October 2021) - Over the last decade there has been a global trend to apply evidence and methods from the behavioural sciences to achieve programme and policy objectives. This webinar provides a focused reflection on ethical considerations for applying “behavioural insights” approaches to work that implicates children. UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti worked in partnership with the Behavioural Insights Team, Australia, and the Young and Resilient Research Centre (Western Sydney University) to undertake a systematic exploration of relevant literature along with consultations with youth to develop a comprehensive discussion paper and a set of practical tools to help practitioners navigate ethical considerations specific to applying behavioral insights approaches to programming with children. The webinar will provide an introduction and overview of the paper and associated tools followed by a panel discussion with select members of the Project Advisory Group as thought leaders and practitioners directly involved in shaping the project.    Presenters: Karen Tindall, PhD, and Lydia Hayward, PhD, Behavioural Insights TeamDiscussants:Allison Zelkowitz, Director, Center for Utilizing Behavioral Insights for Children (CUBIC), Save the Children InternationalLiam Delaney, PhD, Head of Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, London School of EconomicsJulianne Birungi, Social and Behaviour Change Specialist, UNICEF NYHQMary MacLennan, Lead, UN Behavioural Science Group, UN Innovation NetworkChair: Benjamin Hickler, PhD, UNICEF Innocenti