Behavioral Grooves Podcast

How Behavioral Science Can Impact Nonprofits: The Inspiring Story at Save The Children

May 19, 2021

Allison Zelkowitz seized the opportunity to use behavioral science at Save The Children to make a big impact on global projects. By building a world-first “nudge unit” within the organization, her story is an inspiring example of how application of behavioral science principles can make a real difference in the world. 

Allison Zelkowitz is the Founder and ‎Director of the Center for Utilizing Behavioral Insights for Children (CUBIC), part of the international nonprofit organization Save the Children. CUBIC is the first behavioural insights initiative or "nudge unit" in the world to focus on the most marginalised children’s rights and welfare. At CUBIC, they focus on nudging the behaviours and actions of decision-makers, educators, families and communities, so more children get the best possible start in life. 

Ultimately, Allison is well aware that changing behavior isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about facilitating ways for them to change: understanding the barriers and effectively removing them. The projects of CUBIC are not just inspiring, they are also life-saving. Projects such as 

  • Nudging children in Thailand to wear bicycle helmets, 
  • Encouraging breastfeeding in Laos, and 
  • Increasing playful teaching methods to enhance children’s learning in Bangladesh. 

In our chat with Allison, she reveals the vast personal dedication that it took to enable CUBIC to be formed. We love that Allison first carved her interest in behavioral science by listening to podcasts in her spare time (Allison has since become a Behavioral Grooves Patreon  - thank you for your support!) But within the space of 14 months, her idea had grown into an international collaboration with other leading behavioral scientists, a huge fundraising effort, and eventually to the global launch of CUBIC in April 2020.

In this episode you will learn:
  • (11:05) What inspired Allison to start CUBIC at Save The Children International.
  • (15:03) Why just giving people good information doesn't change their behavior.
  • (19:45) An overview of setting up a Nudge unit.
  • (23:55) The steps Allison took to build CUBIC in 14 months.
  • (30:18) About the current project in the Philippines texting parents to encourage them to positively engage with their children.
  • (41:54) Upcoming project on increasing vaccination uptake in the global south.
  • (43:59) Music Allison enjoys.
  • (48:58) Grooving Session and Bonus Track.

© 2021 Behavioral Grooves


CUBIC - Save The Children International:

Save The Children: 

CUBIC: Save The Children initiative: 

Eliud Kipchoge: 

United States Parachute Association: 

Allison's Blog on Skydiving with Behavioral Science: 

Behavioral Grooves Patreon: 

Fadi Makki, Founder of Nudge Lebannon: 

The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics: 

Faisal Naru, OECD: 

Josh Martin, Ideas 42: 

The Behavioral Insights Team:  

Dr Susanna Loeb, The Annenberg Institute, Brown University: 

The Lantern Group:

Behavioral Alchemy:  

Musical Links 

Hamilton Soundtrack: 

Journey “Don’t Stop Believing”: 

Video for Allison’s wedding: 

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