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  • Author or Editor: Alice Moseley x
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Despite growing awareness of and enthusiasm for evidence-based practice (EBP) among front-line social care staff employed by member agencies of the Centre for Evidence-based Social Services, using evidence in practice is a demanding task. This article highlights some of the challenges to evidence-based practice experienced by those involved in its implementation, which can be characterised as cultural, infrastructural and practical. Despite these hurdles, creative, practical steps have been taken by social care staff to promote EBP within their workplaces, and these are briefly summarised.

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This article theorises how behavioural public administration can help improve our understanding of frontline policy implementation. The human factors that characterise policy implementation remain undertheorised: individual variation in policy implementation is dismissed as mere “noise” that hinders predictability in policy implementation. This article aims to fill this gap. We provide a model for street level decision-making which outlines the role of heuristics and biases in frontline workers’ allocation of resources and sanctions. Based on an analysis of the behavioural and street-level bureaucracy literature, we present 11 testable propositions that point to predictable patterns in the ways that bounded rationality influences policy implementation and outcomes. Heuristics can help hard-pressed frontline public service workers to make decisions but may also produce social inequity or inefficient or ineffective service. Therefore, we need to improve understanding of biases that are common among frontline workers in order to inform the development of appropriate mitigation strategies, such as de-biasing or even ‘re-biasing’ (nudging).

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In this article we compare the effect of two methods of mobilisation – doorstep canvassing and postal appeals – on family attendance at early childhood Sure Start centres in England with a sample of 3,444 families. Families who were not already using Sure Start services were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a visit from an outreach worker providing information and encouragement; receipt of a leaflet about Sure Start; and a control group that received the usual service. We found no evidence of a significant difference in Sure Start attendance between the three groups: neither visits nor leaflets were effective in encouraging non-attenders to go to Sure Start.

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One of the mechanisms through which the United Kingdom government is seeking to achieve its Big Society agenda is through nudge-style interventions. This article summarises research findings from nudge experiments, which aimed to increase civic participation, and discusses implications for the voluntary and public sectors. Nudging has modest impacts for short-term behaviour shifts, but the carrier of the nudge message may influence citizen responsiveness, demanding novel and joint approaches by voluntary and public sector organisations.

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