The Power of Narratives in Behavioral Policy Interventions: The Case Antanas Mockus’ Mime-Artist Interventions in Bogota, Colombia


When trying to make sense of policies and influence others, citizens and other stakeholders (including policy makers, beneficiaries, opponents and the media) rarely rely on complicated technical documents. Rather, they rely on narratives or stories about policy problems and solutions. These narrative accounts are essential to understand the particularities and effects of policy interventions in real-world contexts. This is especially the case with policy interventions that seek to influence the behaviour of citizens, in which narratives can effectively boost or hinder their reach and effectiveness. In this paper, I focus on a widely successful behavioural policy intervention (the mime-artist campaigns to increase traffic-norm compliance by Antanas Mockus in Bogota, Colombia), to illustrate how narratives are essential to understand how different policy actors make sense of policy initiatives. To do this, our team collected narratives from 117 citizens, 83 press articles spanning over 24 years, and several of the original designers of the interventions. Using automated textual analysis and manual coding of Narrative Policy Framework elements, we analysed the content and structure of their narratives. Our findings reveal six defining characteristics that structure the narratives of citizens and the press in this case, and which pertain to the main themes, characters, plots and morals they present. By doing this, we argue that good behavioural policy interventions create stories, and that these six areas should help inform the research and design of more effective initiatives in this area.

Author Information
Paulius Yamin Slotkus, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACP2020
Stream: Community Development

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon