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Meet Juan

Juan is a UNICEF National Officer. He contributes to a wide portfolio of national UNICEF education projects.

Juan is faced with challenges and needs your help!
School building

Juan’s Story

Juan’s  job includes liaising with the Ministry of Education to advance key policy decisions. Juan is a dedicated public servant who believes in the value of education for all children.

Juan often feels overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects requiring his time and attention. He also feels that policymakers often fail to account for gender and power dynamics when drafting policies and programs.

Juan just received an email from his deputy director at UNICEF in advance of an upcoming meeting with the Ministry of Education. In it, she includes new evidence that supports gender-transformative programming in education. The report is 200 pages.

In light of this new evidence, the deputy director urges Juan to advocate for including gender-responsive policies and programs during his meeting with the Ministry of Education. She suggests to Juan that this could be an opportunity to strengthen the country-level education strategy over the next several years.

Juan has two teenage daughters of his own, and he personally believes that gender-responsive education policies and programs are needed. However, he does not feel that his counterparts share his views.

Juan and his two teenage daughters

His assumption is based on consistently low Ministry of Education funding  for gender-responsive programs in schools, and a prior dismissal of his recommendation to pilot a school-based gender-based violence prevention program the previous year.

Four stacks of coins decreasing in height from left to right

In reality, 92% of Ministry of Education policymakers are in favour of instituting gender-responsive policies and programs – but because they fear that their peers would disapprove of this position, they remain silent on the issue.

What are Juan’s Biases?

What biases or barriers might affect the interaction between Juan and the Ministry officials?

Select each of the following to discover the answer to this question.

How can we help Juan and his counterparts overcome these biases and barriers?

Thankfully, behavioural science has provided us with a toolbox of solutions we can apply to address a variety of situations.

As we can tell from Juan’s story so far, there are many biases he’ll encounter in his role.

Many of these biases can be categorized as a Cognitive Bias, a Social Barrier, a Structural Barrier, or a Hassle Factor.

Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are mental obstacles that decrease an individual’s likelihood of taking action. Examples include the tendency to think in the short term and resist changing one’s current situation.

Social Barriers

Social barriers are the inequalities associated with different types of individuals in society. These include socio-cultural and gender-related obstacles that prevent certain groups from accessing services or benefitting from resources.

Structural Barriers

Structural barriers are external factors that stem from how a decision-making environment is built, thus making desired actions difficult. These may include inadequate transportation or the distance to essential services.

Hassle Factors

Hassles are the frustrating demands that often characterise everyday transactions with the environment. Hassles may include, for example, filling out long forms, waiting in line, or complex administrative processes.

Help Juan by reviewing the following solutions and identifying the barriers they can each help him overcome.

Solution #1:

Address Choice Overload

Structuring and organizing choices into categories or providing clear decision criteria may help individuals compare options more effectively and feel less overwhelmed. Introducing prioritization tools (including, for example, prioritization frameworks or rankings) can also be useful for creating a basis to evaluate options.

Information important for policy-making, such as reports or new evidence, should be provided in a very concise, easy-to-understand format with actionable recommendations.

Both Juan and his government counterparts could benefit from tools and strategies to tackle choice overload.

What type of barrier do you think this solution would help Juan and his counterparts overcome?
Three documents being filtered into one
Solution #2:

Simplification (Sludge Reduction)

Sludge can be considered the opposite of a nudge. It consists of the challenges and mundane frictions related to bureaucratic processes. Sludge reduction can include, for example, decreasing the complexity of a task making information easier to understand, or simplifying processes. All of these actions  can be effective solutions for encouraging stronger follow-through.

Presenting policy research to both Juan and his counterparts in a clear and concrete way can help him follow through on his intention to promote gender-responsive education policies. Supporting efforts to streamline communication between both parties - by providing certain approvals in advance - might also reduce sludge.

What type of barrier do you think this solution would help Juan and his counterparts overcome?
A document with checkmarks and an approval stamp
Juan looking happy outside the school

Great work

Juan and his counterparts are starting to feel more equipped in their roles at work. Keep going!

Solution #3:

Address Pluralistic Ignorance

For example, if Juan and his counterparts in the Ministry of Education are provided with feedback on actual peer beliefs (92% of Ministry of Education policymakers are in favour of instituting gender-responsive education policies and programs), this information can help them update previously held misconceptions.

What type of barrier do you think this solution would help Juan overcome?
A pie chart with a 92% size piece
Solution #4:


Juan and his government counterparts handle many competing priorities. This can lead to procrastination or forgetfulness and can limit attention given to more challenging or complex policy topics. Adding simple features, such as a timely reminder, to their program management toolbox can help them overcome procrastination and prioritize important tasks that keep getting relegated. This could include, for example, a reminder to review a policy brief, or prepare a set of talking points for an upcoming meeting.

What type of barrier do you think this solution would help Juan and his counterparts overcome?
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Juan standing looking happy with his approved document

Amazing job! You have completed this scenario and successfully helped Juan overcome barriers.

Explore other ways behavioural science can be used to help people overcome barriers by going through another scenario!

Try another scenario

Use this resources to learn more about biases, barriers, and solutions.

Behavioural Drivers Model
Everybody Wants to Belong
Social and Behaviour Change