Behavioral Economics and Nudge in the Arab Region
Lessons Learned & Challenges Ahead


The application of concepts and tools from behavioral economics in informing public policy is a recent innovation that is transforming the way governments design policies and deliver services. Many behavioral insights units – often referred to as “nudge units” – have been established around the globe to work on policy challenges that have behavioral roots, using experimental methods and tools such as the randomized controlled trial (RCT), the golden standard of research in behavioral economics. This innovation has recently received a considerable boost with the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences to Richard Thaler, the co-founder of the “nudge” theory (along with Cass Sunstein), for his major contributions to behavioral economics.

Since the set-up of the Behavioural Insights Team in 2010, as the first ‘nudge unit” in the world, the number of nudge units has been growing rapidly, with around 200 such units currently in operation, within government, academia, NGOs and social purpose companies. In the Arab world, Qatar led the way with the set-up of the Qatar Behavioral Insights Unit (QBIU) in the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy in 2016, followed by Lebanon through Nudge Lebanon in 2017, and more recently Kuwait through the Kuwait Policy Appraisal Lab (KPAL) in the Supreme Council for Planning and Development. More countries and organizations in the region are either planning the set-up of their own units or are working on behavioral experiments to address policy challenges in the areas of sustainability, health, inclusion, and prevention of violent extremism. Some of these countries include Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, among many others.

Against this background, Nudge Lebanon, one of the pioneers of this innovation in the Middle East, organized a regional conference on behavioral economics and nudge, with the twin objectives of 1) building greater awareness around the power of behavioral insights in addressing many of the region’s policy challenges with behavioral roots, and 2) creating a platform for collaboration and partnership between government officials, academia, NGOS and the private sector in a wide range of public policy areas, including public finance management, inclusion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, health, education, compliance, rule of law, anti-corruption and the prevention of violent extremism.

This conference was in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the American University of Beirut, Harvard Business Review Arabia, and Nudgeco. The conference featured prominent speakers from academia, nudge units around the world, governments, NGOs and private sector organizations, covering sessions on several policy areas including:

  • The Role of Academia and NGOs in Promoting Greater Use of Behavioral Insights in Public Policy
  • Growth of Behavioral Economics and Rise of Nudge Units
  • Applying Behavioral Insights to Health and the Environment
  • Compliance & Rule of Law: Rethinking Government Services Delivery through a Behavioral Lens
  • Applying Behavioral Insights and Nudge to Education
  • Applying Behavioral Insights to Financial and Social Inclusion
  • The Future of Behavioral Economics and Nudge in the Region

For more on the conference, see detailed agenda and list of speakers.