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ESRC Project Bulletin

January 2015

[Posted by Mark Whitehead]

  1. We have pretty much finished Strand 1 of the research. Rhys and Jessica are going to follow-up on a few things in Denmark and Singapore and I may try and complete a few general interviews with interesting groups and individuals, but apart from that we have done all that we said we would in relation to this strand.
  2. In relation to Strand 2 of the project (looking at evaluation), we have nearly completed a paper critically evaluating the notion of the experimental state. Over the coming months Jessica and I plan to analyze the evaluation-focused material we have gathered and develop a short report on behaviour change evaluations.
  3. Strand 3 continues to progress very well: a. Rachel has completed the Mindfulness intervention with Global Action Plan. We both attended a feedback session in London last week, which was positive, but gave us some really helpful action points. I hope to complete the GAP evaluation work over the next couple of months (I have interviews set-up next week). b. The next two Welsh government interventions have now begun (one in Cardiff and one in Aberystwyth). It looks like these interventions may enable us to reach more managerial level staff, which will be interesting to evaluate. Overall, it looks now like we will have run four mindfulness and behaviour change trials (one more than we suggested to the ESRC) that will have involved some 50-60 people.
  4. Following on from the Mindfulness work, we have submitted a revised bid to the ESRC Impact Accelerator Fund. This will hopefully enable us to extent our work with the Welsh Government, as well as running a trial with OgilvyChange. Rachel Lilley is also involved in convening a meeting in Parliament exploring the broader role of mindfulness in social change.


Project Bulletin 1st September 2014

(Posted by mark Whitehead)

Well, it is precisely one year ago today that our project commenced!

I hope you have all been keeping well. As the summer is gradually coming to an end and we are all returning to our normal routines I thought the time was ripe for a project update.

  1. I have just returned from the Netherlands where I completed the final round of interviews related to this case study (with the Ministries of Infrastructure and Environment, Internal Affairs, and Economic Affairs). Things are really taking-off there now and I hope to complete an overview of the case study by the end of the month.2. The evaluation report for our Welsh Government intervention is nearly complete. The results of the qualitative and quantitative evaluation look very positive and it appears that the programme has had some real impact.

    3. Rachel Lilley is currently working hard to set-up the next intervention trial. It looks like we will be running one programme for members of staff at Global Action Plan and at least one further course with the Welsh Government.

    4. I have now seen a draft of our global scoping study report. Alice is making some final edits to some figures and then the report should be available for circulation.

    5. Finally, you may be interested to listen to this short discussion on Radio 4, which relates directly to our research:

    6. Rhys and I continue to make progress writing our next paper (exploring the idea of the experimental state), which will be presented at a conference later this month.

    7. Lest week Rachel Lilley and I met with Mark Williams MP to discuss our work. He was very interested in what we were doing and we have a further meeting with him in a couple of weeks time.

    I would like to hold our next project meeting on Friday 12th September 2014 at 11am.


Project Bulletin 9th July 2014

(Posted by Mark Whitehead)

1. The eight-week Mindfulness Based Behaviour Change in Policy and Engagement intervention has now come to and end. Thanks to Rachel Lilley for her hard work on this. We are now in the evaulation stage of the intervention. The online survey has been sent out to participants (thanks to Rachel Howell for coordinating this) and I have a series of interviews set-up for later this week.

2. Rachel Lilley and I will be in Cardiff and London next week to discuss the Mindfulness Based Behaviour Change intervention. In Cardiff we will be meeting with Welsh Government officials to talk about how we can take the intervention forward. In London we are meeting with Chris Ruane MP, who has been instrumental in promoting Mindfulness in Whitehall.

3. I am in the final stages of completing our Neuroliberalism book proposal for Routledge. This should be circulated to everyone soon.

4. I have set-up a second round on interviews with Dutch government officials in August to discuss behaviour change developments in the Netherlands.

5. Rachel Lilley has recently returned from the Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance where she made an invited contribution to a plenary debate about psychological resilience in the Anthropocene.

6. I am in the process of writing a policy report exploring progressive behaviour change alternatives to nudge. I hope to circulate this to everyone by the end of the summer.

I hope to have our next project meeting on Wednesday 23rd July at 11.30 – followed by lunch at 12.30 for those who can make it.

Project Bulletin 13 – 27th May 2014

Things have been progressing rapidly with the project since the last Bulletin back in April. Here are some notable developments.

  1. The Mindfulness Based Behaviour Change and Engagement for Policy (MBBCEP) programme has now been running for four weeks. We managed to successfully recruit 18 members of the Welsh Civil Service onto the programme. The programme, which blends Mindfulness Practice with insights into behaviour change theory, has so far proved very successful. Thanks to Rachel Lilley for doing such a great job in developing the programme and leading the course.
  2. Mark Whitehead has just returned from the Netherlands. During this visit he interviewed a series of people who have been instrumental in developing a dialogue between the behavioural sciences and public policy-making. Mark’s visit was timely because is corresponded with the Dutch government discussing the best ways in which the insights of the behavioural sciences could be incorporated into mainstream policy-making.
  3. At the beginning of the month we convened our second Project Steering Committee meeting. The meeting gave us an opportunity to reflect on the findings of the project so far and to think about how best to share the insights we have been developing.
  4. Over the last month we have completed interviews with Action for Happiness; The Behavioural Architects; Ogilvy Change; and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. Many thanks to these organizations for sharing their insights with us.

Project Bulletin 12 – 7th April 2014

1. On Friday Rachel Lilley and Mark Whitehead went down to Cardiff to deliver the first, taster, session of our Mindfulness/Behaviour Change intervention. The one and a half hour session was attended by 30 civil servants. Rachel did a fantastic job of delivering the session, which appeared to go down really well. The session proper will start in early May. We have already had interest in delivering a similar intervention with civil servants in the Aberystwyth offices of the Welsh Government.

2. Mark Whitehead been busy setting-up interviews for our Dutch case study. I will be travelling to the Netherlands on the 12/5/14 for a week. So far I have arranged to speak with 5 interesting people from a range of sectors.

3. The first session of the ESRC seminar series on Psychological Government was held two weeks ago in Bristol. This was a fascinating session and, among other things, generated many ideas and contacts that are sure to benefit our project. Thanks to Jessica for her excellent organisational efforts.

4. Our paper on Neuroliberalism is currently going through the last round of review. I hope to submit this paper over the coming weeks. I should hopefully be circulating our Mindfulness paper over the next week.

5. Finally, Mark will be travelling to London on Thursday to conduct interviews with Action for Happiness, WRAP, and Behavioural Architects.

Project Bulletin 11 – 11th March 2014

1. The interviews continue to progress (20 completed now). I had a very interesting interview with a representative from the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Council on Neuroscience and Behaviour the other week.

2. In our last project meeting it was decided that we would spend some time analysing the key themes that have so far emerged out of our conversations. I am working on a summary document at the moment. This analysis will hopefully then shape our subsequent interviews/case studies.

3. Our Welsh Government intervention commences on the 4th April (with two taster sessions). We are currently working on the survey evaluation we will use in association with this intervention.

4. Following on from the publication of our book Changing Behaviours, the magazine Psychology Today invited Rhys, Jessica and myself to set-up a blog column. This is now up and running, see:


Project Bulletin 10, 18th February 2014

1. Rhys has just returned from his visit to Australia. He managed to interview a range of actors in the Australia behaviour change sphere, and some of his reflections on those interviews are now available on our project blog.

2. Rachel Lilley and I have just returned from Cardiff where we met members of the team who will be participating in our behaviour change intervention. We had a very productive meeting and the people we met were keen and enthusiastic about our work. The first taster session for the programme will run in March.

3.  I have commissioned Alice Briggs to produce our Nudging All Over the World report. The report is now with Rachel (Howell), who is completing the last stage of edits. We hope to be able to formally launch the report in April.

4. I have been working on a short paper exploring the connections between geography and Mindfulness (possibly for Area). I will hopefully circulate this paper to you over the next week.

5. Jez Groom (Group Chief Strategy Officer Ogilvy & Mather) has expressed an interest in coming to meet with us all in Aberystwyth to discuss the connections between #ogilvychange and our project (see This is an exciting development and I will let you know about potential dates for this visit.

6. I am currently liaising with colleagues in Bangor over the development of a COST Action application on Behaviour Change. I will give you more information about this in our next meeting.

Our next Project meeting has been scheduled for 11.30am on Friday 28/2/14. I hope to see you all then.

Project Bulletin 9, 20th January 2014

1. We are hoping to commence the Welsh Government intervention at some point in February. As part of this intervention we are now looking to co-fund a short (RSA-style) animation (in collaboration with the welsh Government) to explain the behaviour change agenda and to promote more “progressive” approaches to changing behaviour.

2. Two further interviews were completed last week, with Global Action Plan and Consensus. Consensus are an Irish-based research collaboration who are specifically employing practice theory in their behavioural interventions (see:

3. Rhys will be leaving to carry out research on the Australian case study in early February.

4. The Centre for behaviour Change in Bangor have asked if we would be interested in being involved in a COST Action application they are putting together on ‘Innovation in Behaviour Change.’ It appears that we could contribute to the work package on: “Neuroscience: Understanding the underlying mechanisms of behaviour, theoretical and experimental. Ethics: Debates around political responsibility, political and social contexts for behaviour change, using technology to effect behaviour change, data collection and management. Deliverables include theme-relevant research, pilots, and funding”. I will liaise further with them to see if we can take this forward (see attached).

5. We have decided to put together a book proposal on Neuroliberalism. Several publishers have expressed an interest in a book on this topic, so it seems timely to think about this at this point.

Our next project meeting is scheduled for 2pm Friday 31st January 2014.

Project Bulletin 8, 6th January 2014.

Happy New Year to you all,

1. The first draft of the policy report “Nudging all Over the World” is now complete. Rhys Jones is looking at the first draft, but I will circulate to you all ahead of final production.

2. We have now completed 6 research interviews (with Corporate Culture, Change Labs, The National Social Marketing Centre, the Danish Nudging Network, Greenudge, and the Netherlands School of Public Management). I am arranging to have these interviews transcribed and will then circulate them to you. We have further interviews set up this month with the RSA, the Director of Coroporate Culture (who is interested in our work) and Global Action Plan.
3. Rachel Lilley and I met with representatives from the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change and the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. The meeting went very well and we hope to establish a loose research network that will hopefully lead on to future collaboration.
4. We have submitted a revised work programme for our behaviour intervention with the Welsh Government. We are now just waiting to hear back from them before we can proceed.
5. As a slight aside, it looks like HM Revenue are developing a Mindfull take on tax returns this year. Not quite what we had in mind, but I think worthy of a blog entry nonetheless see:
Our next Project Team Meeting will be at 11am on Friday 17th 2014.

Project Bulletin 7, 25th November  2013

 1. We now have 4 interviews set-up with key behaviour change organizations (Changelabs; the RSA, the National Social Marketing Centre; and Corporate Culture). We hope to have completed about 10-15 of these provisional interview by Christmas.
2. We have now decided to focus on the following international case studies: Australia and Denmark (Rhys); France (Jessica); Netherlands (Rachel Howell); USA (Mark and Rachel Lilley); and India (Mark). India will act as a kind of null hypothesis. So far we have not found significant evidence of behaviour change policies there. We will, however, look at developments more closely to see if things are actually emerging there. If they are not, we will explore why not.
3. 7,000 words have now been completed on our first paper “Neuroliberalism: A Grey Geography of Affect.” A full draft of this paper should be available for circulation before Christmas.
4. Maps are currently being drawn to be used in our first policy report: “Nudging All Over the World”. The first draft of this report should be complete before Christmas.
5. The Welsh Government like the proposed work programme we have developed for them. We are now going to work on a short statement concerning how the programme will be evaluated.

Project Bulletin 6, 18th November  2013

1. On 7th November Rhys Jones participated in the Sheffield Salon debate, ‘Nanny, Nudger or Therapist.’ The debate went well, and Rhys’ powers of rhetoric were put to very good use.

2. We have now lined-up interviews with the National Social Marketing Centre (UK) and Greenudge (Norway). These interviews are part of a series of interviews we are conducting with leading international organisations and figures in the field of behaviour change. 
3. On the 13th November Chris Baker (of the Temple Foundation and the University of Chester) came to speak to us about the idea of spiritual capital. Chris gave a fascinating talk that had great significance for our own deployments of Mindfulness and notions of psychological capital.
4. Rachel Lilley met with representatives of the Welsh Government to finalise the work plan for our behavioural intervention.
5. Rhys Jones has been working hard developing contacts in the behaviour change communities of Australia and Denmark.  He will be carrying out research in these two countries in the new year.
6. We have now been invited to join the Danish Nudging Network.

Our next Project meeting is scheduled for 2pm on Friday 22nd November.

Project Bulletin 5, 4th November  2013

1. The first phase of the international scoping study is now complete. This has revealed some interesting results and should provide a good platform for selecting our case study locations.
2. The survey revealed key organisations involved in behaviour change initiatives at a global level.  I am setting-up a series of interviews with representatives from these organisations before Christmas.
3. Following our Steering Committee meeting, we will now be working with the Welsh Government so that we can deliver our behavioural interventions to key policy officials.
4. The paper on neuroliberalism is progressing well. Mark hopes to  be able to circulate the first draft of this paper for comments before Christmas.
5. Rachel Lilley and Mark Whitehead have arranged a meeting with behaviour change/mindfulness people at Bangor University next month. This meeting will hopefully pave the way for future collaborations.

Project Bulletin 4, 14th October 2013

1. Rhys Jones was very busy last week. Not only did he deliver a Public Lecture at Swansea University on the Welsh language, but he also gave a series of TV and radio interviews. In these interviews he talked about the potential application of behaviour changing policies in the promotion of the Welsh language. To see his TV interview with S4C go to:

2. Rachel Lilley has written a blog post on Mindfulness. This post usefully positions our own work in the much longer history of the adaptation of Mindfulness techniques.

3. The international scoping exercise continues to progress well (only 27 countries left to survey now). It is intended that we will now use this survey to produce a short policy document on the global spread of behaviour change policies – “Nudging All Over the World”.

 4. Last week Rachel Lilley attended the Symposium for Contemplative Studies in Berlin. As part of this Symposium, Rachel conducted a series of interviews with Mindfulness experts. These interviews will hopefully be able to inform our own project.

 5. Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead are participating in a book review forum on Nikolas Rose’s new book Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (2013, Princeton). This book has some important overlap with our own project.

 The next project meeting will be the first Project Steering Committee Meeting. This is being held at 9.30am on the 24th October in Medrus 2.

Project Bulletin 3 30th September 2013

Well, we have nearly completed the first month of our project and things appears to be progressing well.

Here is the latest news.

1. The composition of our Project Steering Committee has been finalised (see: and will meet on 24th October.
2. Our project blog is now live and has received over 500 hits already!
3. The international scoping exercise continues to progress (up to M now). This exercise has revealed a series of key international bodies (USAID, OECD, World Bank, UNFPA, UNICEF) we may want to interview about behaviour change in the first phase of our research. Most recently, we have become aware of some of the creative nudging exercises that are being developed as part of micro-finance initiatives in Africa.
4. Our Op Ed piece on Welsh nudging has now been published in the Western Mail.
5. We are exploring the potential of developing a special conference session on the nature of transformative social science research with a project team at Exeter University. This team have also been funded as part of the ESRC’s Transformative Social Science programme.
6. Edward Elgar are interested in using our ESRC seminar series as the basis for an edited book on behaviour change.
I intend to hold the next project meeting at 2pm on Friday 11th October 2013.

Project Bulletin 2 Monday 16th September 2013

1. The composition of the Project Steering Committee has nearly been finalised: Kayleigh van Oorschot (Netherlands School of Public Management); Diana Reynolds (Welsh Government); Alison Armstrong (Present Minds).
We are aiming to hold the first committee meeting on the 23/24 October (TBC).
2. Mark has been making good progress on the international behaviour change scoping study (up to C so far in alphabetical list of countries). This is proving to be a very helpful exercise and will hopefully produce the first international dataset of its kind. What has been most interesting is to see the wide use of nudge-type policies in LEDCs – particularly in relation to hygiene (and the spread of diarrhoea) and HIV/AIDS prevention. Many of these policy developments predate what has been happening the West. 
3. Rachel Lilley will be attending a major international conference on Mindfulness in October. The conference, which is being held in Berlin, will enable  Rachel to conduct some interviews with Mindfulness experts.

 4. Two short articles have been written for the Western Mail and AberNews to help to raise awareness about the project. Our project was also mentioned in the Times Higher thanks to the ESRC.

Project Bulletin 1 Monday 2nd September 2013

1. On Friday, Jessica and Mark were involved in the “Psychospatial” panel session at the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society. The session went well (thanks to Jessica’s organisational efforts). A number of themes were raised that are relevant for our project, and we also explored aspects of neuroliberalism.
2. Rachel Lilley and Mark recently held a Skype meeting with Eluned Gold, from the Mindfulness Centre in at Bangor. She was very interested in our research, and we are planning a trip to Bangor shortly.
3. The Chair to support Transformative Social Science Research at Aberystwyth University has just been advertised. Given the fact that this appointment is directly connected with our project, I would expect that the work of this Chair will overlap a lot with what we are doing.
4. Largely (actually completely) through Jessica’s hard work, we have been successful in getting an ESRC Seminar Series award (see attached). The seminar series will be entitled ‘Behaviour Change and Psychological Governance’ and will provide funds to run 6 seminar events with invited speakers.  I hope we can all be involved in this initiative in some way.

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