DonateLife Week 2021 – The Social Impact of Behavioural Economics

DonateLife Week 2021 – The Social Impact of Behavioural Economics

In June of 2021, the DonateLife campaign, “The Great Registration Race”, kicked off their big push to promote DonateLife Week – which was celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! The PR team behind the campaign were racing to encourage 100,000 more Australians to register as organ and tissue donors and talk to their families about donation. The Great Registration Race was also about asking people to check their registration, as many people think that they’re registered but they’re not.

This year’s DonateLife week was a resounding success, with a huge 108,952 new registrations recorded on the Australian Organ Donor Register throughout June, July and August. This was the most successful DonateLife Week campaign in its 10-year history. There were many elements that contributed to this success, including the overwhelming community engagement, a well-designed campaign, and the incredible stories shared by donor families, transplant recipients and staff and volunteers from all around Australia.

However, key organizers of the campaign believed that all former DonateLife Week campaigns had these elements as well – so what was different?

Well, the ‘ace-in-the-hole’ (so to speak) arose from a conversation between DonateLife Week campaign leads and BEST Centre, QUT researcher Dr Stephen Whyte.

During 2015 – 2018, Steve conducted a blood and organ donor research study, with colleagues Ho Fai (Ben) Chan and Benno Torgler from QUT, and Karin from Monash – utilizing a modest budget of only $500. The study didn’t come to fruition in time to make it into his thesis. But it was eventually published in Jan 2019 in the general science journal PLOS One:

The study was desk rejected by high ranking Econ & Health Psych journals because it didn’t take the historical scientific lens of engagement for donation (altruism vs financial remuneration). In addition, the team’s methods were said to be unconventional and by association, not relevant to the academic fields.

However, in April of 2021, the private PR firm in charge of this year’s national “DonateLife Week” campaign contacted Steve. The team were particularly interested in his study, its unique methods, and its novel findings. After meeting with the team, where Steve explained the scientific findings and how such applied behavioural research can be utilized, the PR firm implemented some of the novel findings in practice – with incredible success.

Not only was this the most successful DonateLife Week campaign in 10 years, in July alone, the campaign also managed to gain 35% more new registrations onto the Australian Organ Donation Register compared to last year’s campaign – which in raw figures accounts for over 50,000+ new registrations (you can read more of the successes HERE).

This achievement is a fantastic example of the argument for teaching new students unconventional methods which challenge the neo-classical approach. It also shows that applied behavioural research that didn’t receive acknowledgement and acceptance into top Econ, Business or Marketing journals, can still have incredibly important social impact.