The World Development Report Holds New Insights on How People Make Decisions

March 11, 2015

Each year the World Bank produces a World Development Report to help development organizations and aid workers enhance the quality of their efforts. The 2015 World Development Report holds new insights into how people make decisions, and provides a framework to help development workers improve policies and services.

The report establishes three main principles to “understand behavior and design and implement development policy.” These principles are:

  • People think automatically, they make most judgments and choices automatically, not deliberatively
  • People think socially, the way people act and think often depends on what others around them do and think
  • People think with mental models, individuals in a given society share a common perspective on making sense of the world around them and understanding themselves

The report explains that in order for organizations in the development sector to better understand the needs of their clients, they must function, in a sense, more like the private sector. Similar to product designers, developers must test and evaluate their programs and services to better understand how they are interpreted by their target populations, taking into account the psychological, social, and environmental factors that influence peoples receptiveness.

Based on research and findings, the World Development Report makes suggestions for minor revisions that can be made to improve current policies and services, including:

  • Changing the timing of cash transfers
  • Labeling something differently
  • Simplifying the steps for service take-up
  • Offering reminders
  • Activating a latent social norm
  • Reducing the salience of a stigmatized identity

Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project, John Coonrad, explains how The Hunger Project implements similar strategies to those suggested in the report.

“We start out by organizing something called as the ‘Vision Commitment and Action Workshops (VCA)’ for the community members. In these VCA workshops, the community members not only create a vision for their respective villages, but in doing so they discover that they have a right to have a vision,” he said.

“You know, most of these communities have been told and taught, conditioned, and really brainwashed into thinking of themselves as powerless, and that poverty is their destiny. Well, it’s not true. So, through this process, people not only own the vision but also really get inspired to take the stand and commit themselves to fulfilling that vision.”

In addition to these workshops,The Hunger Project conducts regular monitoring and evaluation services to understand how effective it’s programs are and what personal and societal influences are affecting program success.

The Hunger Project works to eradicate hunger through individual empowerment and community engagement. We know that understanding individual and societal influences and preferences is the key to creating a sustainable change, and we seek to meet our target population on their level and work with them to develop the best solutions to ending hunger.


Learn More:

Read the full 2015 World Development Report: Mind, Society, and Behavior

Read more about how The Hunger Project starts by empowering individuals

See how The Hunger Project monitors and evaluates our programs

Listen to the interview with Jim Yong Kim