AUK and GSSCPD Completed an Applied Course on Behavioral Economics, Public Policy, and Nudge for Sustainability

February 17, 2019

The College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) jointly offered a new Interdisciplinary Honor Seminar that focused on behavioral economics, public policy, and nudge for sustainability. The BUS 489, entitled “Behavioral Public Policy for Sustainability and the Environment” was jointly taught in collaboration with the newly set-up behavioral insights unit Kuwait Policy Appraisal Lab (KPAL) under the Kuwait Public Policy Center (KPPC) at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (GSSCPD), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kuwait. The course, which was designed as a joint offering between the national nudge units and universities, is a recent innovation in the Middle East. It provided a unique platform for AUK students to apply behavioral economics to design and implement experiments related to challenges with roots at the heart of KNDP 2035, with a focus on the energy and environment pillar.

The course combines collaboration with practitioners working from the field with academics from AUK. It was jointly taught by professors in the College of Business and Economics, Mark Speece, and Ali Aljamal, and a team from KPAL, which, was led by Dr. Fadi Makki and included Dr. Fatemah Al-Moussawi and Ms. Fatima Keaik.  Dr Makki is the Head of the Qatar Behavioural Insights Unit (QBIU) and Founder of Nudge Lebanon—a pioneering group in the application of behavioral sciences to public policy issues in the MENA region.  A similar course was developed by the QBIU and was offered at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Juris Doctor (JD) Program in 2017-18. The course was then replicated at the American University of Beirut and at the American University of Kuwait.

CBE students implemented two field experiments, one to reduce littering in movie theatres, and the second to increase the use of recycling bins. The course provided an opportunity for students to engage with stakeholders, draw a behavioural map of the challenge, collect data, and analyze the findings. Both experiments were hailed as a success with strong implications for public policy. The field experiments were supported by the UNDP-KPPC project team, KPAL, QBIU, and Nudge Lebanon teams who coached students and helped them in the design, implementation, and analysis of their projects. Students successfully designed and implemented experiments to assess policy challenges and propose behavioral interventions which can guide decision-making in the pursuit of optimum public policy.   

This collaboration provides a forum for policy makers, experts in behavioral sciences and academics to jointly tackle some of the sustainability challenges Kuwait is facing. H.E. Dr. Khaled Mahdi, Secretary General of GSSCPD, said, “By training students and exposing them to behavioral sciences and their applications to real-life policy challenges, we are bringing a new innovation, some form of experiential learning which few universities have done recently.” Dr. Ralph Palliam, the Dean of AUK’s College of Business and Economics, noted that the objectives of the course characterize AUK’s DNA and tradition to provide students an education that is humanistic, global, integrative, and distinctively liberal arts.  “Courses of this nature fit well with the ongoing efforts to integrate real-world application into the program,” noted Dean Palliam.