Professor Lori Foster praises impact of behavioural economics in Qatar

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Professor Lori Foster, a former member of the White House Nudge Unit, believes the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ can be a catalyst for positive and sustainable change across Qatar and the region.

Prof Foster was the keynote speaker during the third Community of Practice for Behavioural Economics meeting – part of a series of events that focuses on a different theme each time. Held at the Legacy Pavilion Majlis in Al Bidda Tower, this latest meeting focused on the application of behavioural insights to environmental sustainability.

The community of practice – a joint initiative between the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s (SC) Qatar Behavioural Insights Unit (QBIU) and Qatar Foundation (QF) – was launched in April with the aim of promoting and sharing knowledge about behavioural economics.

The latest meeting was attended by both SC and QF executives, along with H.E. Francisco Niembro, the Mexican Ambassador to Qatar, who wanted to learn more about the potential legacy benefits of hosting the tournament, which will be held in Mexico, the US and Canada in 2026.

Prof Foster, currently Professor of Industrial-Organisational Psychology at both North Carolina State University, US, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, told www.sc.qa how she believes behavioural economics can be applied to the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, and how the entire region can benefit from hosting the tournament on a social, cultural and environmental level.

Firstly, Qatar is beautiful and I have had an amazing week. With regards to the meeting, I was really impressed with the level of engagement – the event was definitely a success. Everyone joined in the discussion and shared ideas and opinions – it was very collaborative. It was great to see the enthusiasm and excitement, as well as listen to attendees’ ideas about how to apply behavioural insights to benefit both local and international environments.

How do you think we can apply behavioural economics on the road to 2022, to help us deliver an amazing World Cup?

There are some very obvious links to healthy lifestyles that sport can support and the SC can actively encourage. For example, sport can lead to behavioural changes, such as a healthier lifestyle and respect for the environment. It can be a platform from which change can take place for an individual, or on local, regional and international levels.

The less obvious links are things like workers and the working environment – providing positive and favourable working conditions, and creating job opportunities for people to work on an exciting and monumental project such as the World Cup, which the SC is already doing.

This tournament can be a catalyst for positive change, creating opportunities for Qatar to deliver it in a way that is sustainable economically, socially and environmentally.

It’s great to see the leadership QBIU has taken with regard to behavioural insights, along with its initiatives and the measurement of them. With the lessons I have learnt here, I am looking forward to seeing behavioural economics applied to our own World Cup tournament in 2026.

For the legacy phase, what would you say are the key things to apply to help benefit Qatar and the wider region, and what would you prioritise as next steps?

Interesting question. Naturally, for me, the real legacy will be the behavioural change after the World Cup, and as a result of it. Environmental factors, as well as social factors – for example, how people interact with each other and the choices we make.

For me, the build-up to that starts now, not after the tournament. It is in the preparations being made, the ‘nudges’ that are given on the way to 2022, which will help encourage and support long-term behavioural change. This way, when you are in the legacy phase, the benefits are already unfolding and have begun to manifest themselves so you can then see the positive changes that have been embedded along the way. That is success and, at that stage, the focus should be on maintaining and nurturing those changes.

On a more general note, what message would you like to give to the people of the region as we edge ever closer to 2022?

Recognise the tremendous opportunity this is and seize that opportunity for yourself as an individual, your families, and for Qatar and the region – and recognise that behavioural change plays a key role in that. It starts with you. Each person can make a positive difference.

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