Working in Two [Connected] Worlds: A BI Fellow at Environment and Climate Change Canada

Maria Giammarco, Behavioural Insights Fellow

It’s been an interesting and exciting few months for the first cohort of behavioural insights (BI) fellows as we settle in to our new roles (all first time federal public servants!), get to know our IIU family, and start tackling our placements. As BI fellows, we are hired in to the IIU and assigned to a federal department or agency for 12 months to deliver on project outcomes by applying BI methods. I myself am at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and fortunate to be placed in the area of study that first inspired my journey from basic research into the world of BI: environmental sustainability. 

So, what do a behavioural scientist and ECCC have in common? Environmental challenges –from climate change to plastics in oceans and everything in between—are some of the most hard-pressing, top priority problems faced by our national and global communities. And crucial to addressing these problems is addressing the roles that behaviour and human cognition play: How are the decisions and habits of people unsustainable or harmful to the environment, and why are we like this? BI provides us with the answers to these questions, and alongside other traditional policy tools, can help build strategies to encourage sustainable behaviours and promote compliance with environmental regulations.

The Innovation@ECCC Team, August 2018 Team Retreat

The Innovation@ECCC Team, August 2018 Team Retreat

In fact, BI fits snugly into Environment and Climate Change’s core innovation agenda: the recognized need for non-traditional government approaches and innovative policy tools to support effective and impactful outcomes. And so, in my non-traditional fellowship position, armed with the innovative tools of BI, I was brought on to work in the Innovation@ECCC team, the ever-evolving “hub” for innovation at ECCC.
Summer 2018 has truly brought this team to life with the bulk of staffing complete and our first official team retreat wrapped up. Although the innovation movement at ECCC is not by any means novel, our retreat allowed the newly formed unit to come together as a team and work collaboratively to build out the core functions of Innovation@ECCC .

So what are these functions? At its core, Innovation@ECCC is tasked with providing horizontal support across ECCC in building the skills, resources, activities, connectivity, and tools needed to embed innovation into ECCC – and to have fun doing it. 

I think it’s clear why Innovation@ECCC is a good fit for a BI fellow, both in the recognized need for innovative practices like BI, and the overall push to do things differently in government…while actually laying out the steps for getting there. 

What does this mean for my year ahead? I’m tasked with bringing not only a behavioural approach to pressing issues like plastics waste, energy efficiency, and compliance promotion, but demonstrating impact and supporting the use of experimentation in government by testing behaviourally informed solutions while building capacity across the department to do the same. The road ahead may be a challenging dive into new territory, but like anything important, worth it. 

A brainstorm snapshot: How to build a culture of innovation

A brainstorm snapshot: How to build a culture of innovation

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