Waylaid Dialectic

July 26, 2012

Sometimes People Just Wanna Do Good

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 6:23 pm

Interesting article on VoxEU:

Money matters, but is that all? This column presents evidence that social incentives can boost productivity in sectors that rely on pro-social behaviour such as health, education, and social care. It argues that this may help explain the growing popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility programmes within firms…

…In our experiment subjects perform remotely an online data entry task, while being exposed to different combinations of incentives. We provide two different types of monetary incentives. One type, which we term ‘private incentive’, involves paying subjects a piece rate, while the other type, which we term ‘social incentive’, involves a donation received by a charity of the subject’s choice. The donation can be either lump sum or related to the subject’s performance.

We find that social incentives have a significant effect on people’s performance. Specifically, they are associated with a 20% rise in productivity and this effect is present whether the donation to the charity is lump sum or related to subject’s performance. This suggests that what motivates workers is the presence of social incentives rather than their specific form.

I think this would make sense to anyone who has ever worked for an NGO. The average NGO worker certainly isn’t wholly altruistic but at the same time I think it’s safe to say they tend to work harder than their salary to skill set ratio suggests that they should. Why? For the simple reason that believing in a bigger cause of some sort, even if often despairingly, turns out to be a pretty good motivator.



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