Nudging for housing corporations

nudging for housing corporationsHousing corporations are dealing with large groups of customers, and influencing the behavior of these customers. Think, for example, of the way people use the public areas, pay rent and and execute sustainable behavior. The traditional ways to adjust behavior like rewarding and punishing can sometimes be inadequate. Moreover, employees who are constantly in touch with costumer  will agree that behavioral adjustments in practice are mainly ‘acting as police agents’. That is why nudging is so powerful for housing corporations: it is a positive instrument! And when developed with the right stakeholders you are sure that these are in line with the experience of the customer.

what is nudging?

Nudging is a gentle pust in the right direction by making the desired behavior attractive, without restricting people in their liberties. The goal is to adjust behavior (light), which involves subconscious choices. So influencing behavior on a subconscious level. According to the creators of the phenomenon nudging (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008) nudges have to meet a number of criteria:

  • cost effective
  • easy to refuse
  • transparent
  • helps people with their existing preferences

A person makes about 35,000 decisions every day, small and large (but especially small!). In order not to be overfed and overheated, your brain frequently uses rules of thumb. Nudging responds precisely to those rules of thumb: by being well-versed in the context of a situation, and the choices you offer someone, you can promote your desired behavior. This is precisely the reason why many governments, municipalities and non-profit organizations such as housing corporations are engaged in nudging or are interested in getting started with nudging.

nudging for housing corporationsnudging domains

Nudging is not a panacea. But for housing corporations it is a good addition to the traditional instruments like punish and reward. And because nudges are preferably developed by the people with the most customer contacts, or even together with the target group (co-makership), you guarantee that the most important issues are addressed, and in a way and in a tone of voice that appeals to the customers. Our advice is to keep it concrete and take small steps. And measure the results!

Nudging for housing corporations can include the following domains:

  • behavior in the public / common area – think of waste and the parking of bicycles and cars
  • the timely payment of rent, the prevention of rent arrears
  • sustainable behavior – think of the energy consumption by residents
  • social behavior
  • behavior at the desk – think of aggression and verbal abuse
  • (prevention of) fraud
  • temporary housing residents, during renovation
  • nudging of own employees – regarding the level of service towards colleagues and towards clients or healthy eating and exercise

We have already applied the last form of nudging to a medium-sized Dutch municipality. Here too, the set of instruments for rewarding and punishing is usually not sufficient to promote the desired behavior.

step-by-step approach  on nudging for housing corporations

We have developed a step-by-step plan with which a housing corporation (first under our supervision and later on itself) can develop nudges. In broad outline, the steps are as follows:

  1. situation analysis: current vs desired situation: behavior, consequences, desired situation and effect
  2. determine the domain(s) where the nudges will take place, such as waste management in the public space, rent payments or sustainable behavior
  3. checklist basic principles of nudging: unconscious behavior, transparency, freedom of choice, measurable
  4. develop the nudge: social norm, awareness, communication, thresholds, alternative behavior
  5. measure & evaluate

One of the first steps can be organizing a workshop for the employees directly involved, such as managers who are active both internally as in the public space. View the content of such a workshop here. Depending on the composition of the group, we determine whether we are going to do a nudging introduction, or whether we already start working on the development (contours of) nudges with the group.

in summary: keep it small and concrete

nudging for housing corporationsIn summary, it is important to work together with those directly involved on concrete, small behaviors. A step-by-step plan as developed by us is a very useful tool. This allows employees to develop nudges for housing corporations in a structured way. Measuring the effects is of course essential. And the help from outside (for example of som nudging) ensures the input of experience, and the necessary fresh look.

Make sure to read our blogpost about nudging; the best-read blogposting on this website. Interested in nudging for housing corporations? Take a look at our nudging approach or contact us directly.