Insights at UBC Sauder

Katherine White and DIBS team receives 3-year funding grant for behavioural insights research work

Photo of Katherine White
Posted 2020-08-04
The Decision Insights for Business & Society (DIBS) initiative at the UBC Sauder School of Business and Principal Investigator (PI) Katherine White have been awarded a Partnership Development Grant. 

The grant, totalling $196,000 over three years, was made possible by the Government of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

“This funding will help further our mission at the DIBS initiative of using Behavioural Insights (BI) to improve our understanding of decision-making and to help people make better choices—choices that are better for the individual and better for the world,” said Katherine White, PI for the project and Professor in the Marketing and Behavioural Science Division at UBC Sauder. White is also the Academic Director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics

DIBS project: “Sustainable Behavioural Insights: Developing a Framework for Nudging Long-Term Behaviour Change”

A sustainable future requires sustained behaviour change. Every day, we make hundreds of small decisions—including how to commute, what to purchase, and what to dispose. With 7.7 billion people around the world making these types of decisions 365 days per year, the effects of small, individual decisions add up to a massive impact on the global sustainability crisis. To combat climate change, we need to create long-term behaviour change, which, in turn, requires that we understand and influence the decisions that shape these behaviours. 

The DIBS team will use decision science and Behavioural Insights to tackle this challenge. Specifically, they will ask: When and how can BI tools encourage environmentally sustainable behaviours and sustain those behaviours over time? 

The three-year project will pursue two objectives: 

  • Research: to advance the science underlying BI by testing interventions to increase and maintain environmentally-friendly behaviours and creating a framework for sustained behaviour change.
  • Community of Practice: to connect researchers, policymakers, business leaders, and stakeholders as part of an expanding BI community of practice that builds BI literacy and capacity across sectors and works together to create lasting behaviour change.

The project will test whether combining tools (such as a public commitment plus a social norm) maximizes short-term and long-term behaviour change. To properly compare these tools, they will test their usage in different types of decisions: sustainable transportation decisions (in partnership with TransLink), and sustainable waste decisions (in partnership with Ocean Wise).

Project activities will be overseen by two committees – the Scientific Committee and a Practitioner Committee. Professor Katherine White will lead the project, and will co-chair the Scientific Committee with DIBS’ Research Director, Kirstin Appelt; the committee also includes Professor and co-PI Dale Griffin, Associate Professor and co-PI David Hardisty, and Associate Professor Jiaying Zhao. The Practitioner Committee will be co-chaired by Kirstin Appelt and Heather Devine, the head of the B.C. Behavioural Insights Group (BC BIG); the committee also includes Kerri Buschel, Director of Marketing, Insights & Experience at WorkSafeBC, and Tobin Postma, Director of Intergovernmental Relations & Strategic Partnerships at the City of Vancouver.

DIBS projects to build behavioural insights community and capacity

DIBS and BC BIG recently launched a new training opportunity for aspiring Behavioural Insights practitioners – UBC’s Advanced Professional Certificate in Behavioural Insights. While the 2020-2021 cohort is full, applications for the waitlist are still being accepted. For program and application details, visit

DIBS and BC BIG’s annual BI conference, A BIG Difference for BC, brings together Behavioural Insights (BI) experts from academia and the non-profit sector and policy experts from all levels of government, Crown corporations, and industry to create a strong collaborative network that can work across boundaries to use behavioural insights to solve policy challenges in BC. In response to COVID-19, BIG Difference BC 2020 will be a virtual conference, taking place online on Friday, November 6, 2020. For more information, visit