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Prime Minister’s Office to continue project aiming to strengthen behavioural perspective in central government

Government Communications Department
Publication date 19.5.2021 12.20
Press release 314/2021
Photo: Tim Bird/Finland Promotion Board
Photo: Tim Bird/Finland Promotion Board

The Prime Minister’s Office will continue the Behavioural Advisory project launched in October 2020, which experiments in practice with the application of behavioural data in managing the COVID-19 crisis. The aim of the follow-up project is to strengthen the capacity of the central government to apply behavioural data more extensively in different policy areas.

Although the project has focused on the application of behavioural research data, its participatory approach emphasising knowledge-based decision-making serves as an encouraging example of how research data can be applied more generally to decision-making in public administration. So far, the project has aimed to develop new operating models for the application of research data in decision-making and to experiment with human-oriented influencing methods. For example, behavioural science expertise has been used to support the planning and implementation of communications about COVID-19.

“Experiences from the project have been promising and have supported the view that there is a real need for a behavioural perspective to support governance and decision-making. Our goal is to increase behavioural understanding and expertise in the central government while also finding solutions that support functionality and wellbeing in people’s everyday lives,” says Maarit Lassander, who has been appointed Project Manager for the follow-up project. 

A health psychologist with a Clinical Doctorate in Psychology and an MSc in Political Science, Maarit Lassander has previously worked as a project manager at MIELI Mental Health Finland, as a project coordinator at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and as a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the University of London.

The working group for the Behavioural Advisory project includes representatives from a variety of disciplines within the behavioural sciences, such as social psychology, psychology, behavioural economics and health economics. The members of the working group are Doctoral Researcher in Social Psychology Matti Heino (University of Helsinki), Senior Lecturer Markus Kanerva (Laurea University of Applied Sciences), Psychologist Ville Ojanen, PhD (Academy of Brain Oy) and Academy Research Fellow Lauri Sääksvuori (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare). 

The project steering group consists of Director General Seppo Määttä, Chair (Prime Minister's Office), Director of Government Communications Päivi Anttikoski (Prime Minister’s Office), Head of Unit Katju Holkeri (Ministry of Finance), Director Pasi Pohjola (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health), Head of Unit Susanna Siitonen (Ministry of Justice), Research Director Pilvikki Absetz (University of Eastern Finland) and PhD Tiina Likki (freelance). 

The project will continue until the end of December 2022. 

Behavioural expertise has been used in a number of countries, both in Europe and elsewhere, to support decision-making and communication related to the COVID-19 crisis, especially during the second wave. It has also been used to ensure a smooth rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. International studies have shown that behavioural science can help support vaccine willingness and promote the effective progress of vaccinations, among other benefits. 

Inquiries: Seppo Määttä, Director General, Chair of the project steering group, tel. +358 295 160 598, [email protected] and Maarit Lassander, Senior Specialist, Project Manager, tel. +358 295 160 037, [email protected], Prime Minister’s Office