Date: 2012 - 2015

Research team: This project was conducted by researchers from a number of organisations, including RUBEN and Ideas42. Researchers included: Justine Burns (RUBEN), Saugato Datta (Ideas42), Ingrid Shaw, Brendan Maughan-Brown, Martine Visser (RUBEN), Marina Dimova (Ideas42) and Matthew Darling (Ideas42).

This project ran for four years, and was initiated by the Western Cape Government (through the Department of the Premier, in collaboration with four other government departments) in an attempt to use principles of behavioural economics to improve the implementation and effectiveness of policy. The project comprised four pilot projects, and two campaigns.  The pilot projects focused on:

  1. Energy efficiency: Reducing consumption of electricity through messaging, social norms, and competitions
  2. After-school participation: Increasing the extent and frequency of participation in after-school programmes by learners in both primary and high school through behavioural communications, norms, identity-formation, and role models.
  3. Healthy lifestyles: This pilot project morphed into two separate projects. One focused on the use of competitions to promote exercise and healthy living, resulting in the successful piloting of the Walk for Health campaign within government. The second component focused on trying to reduce the incidence of age-disparate relationships (more commonly known as the phenomenon of “Sugar daddies”) in impoverished communities with high rates of HIV incidence. This was done using gamification to teach young people, girls in particular, about the relative risks of HIV associated with partners from different age cohorts.
  4. Safety: This pilot developed an app known as the Nyanga Nudge which aimed to provide young people with information about alternative extra-curricular activities they might engage in. It combined this information with social networking information so that young people had an idea of what others in their respective cohorts or peer groups were doing.

In addition to the four pilot projects, the project also helped design and implement two short-term campaigns; one aimed at reducing road fatalities over the Christmas period and the second aimed at encouraging individuals to get tested for HIV.


  • Datta, S., Burns, J., Maughan-Brown, B., Darling, M., and Eyal, K. 2015. Risking it all for love? Resetting beliefs about HIV risk among low-income South African teens, Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, 118.
  • Visser, M., Klege, R., Datta, S. & Darling, M., 2017. Changing Energy Consumption amongst employees in the Western Cape Government: A Randomized Control Trial, EFD Working Paper, forthcoming.
  • Nyanga Nudge and Safety in the Western Cape: Pilot Project results: Report prepared for Department of the Premier and Department of Community Safety, Western Cape Government, December, 2014.
  • Pilot project to promote participation in MOD Centres: Report prepared for Department of the Premier and Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Western Cape Government, September, 2014.
  • Healthy Lifestyles and Behavioural Economics Pilot Project: Report prepared for Department of the Premier and Department of Health, Western Cape Government, August, 2014.