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Lead Behavioural Scientist


About Nesta
We are Nesta, the UK’s innovation agency for social good. We design, test and scale solutions to society’s biggest problems. Our three missions are to give every child a fair start, help people live healthy lives, and create a sustainable future where the economy works for both people and the planet.

For over 20 years, we have worked to support, encourage and inspire innovation. We work in three roles: as an innovation partner working with frontline organisations to design and test new solutions, as a venture builder supporting new and early stage businesses, and as a system shaper creating the conditions for innovation.

Harnessing the rigour of science and the creativity of design, we work relentlessly to change millions of lives for the better. Find out more at

About this mission: A Fairer Start
We want every child to have the fairest possible start in life, so they can thrive and realise their potential. Nesta’s Fairer Start Mission is on a 10-year endeavour to close the gap in school readiness between those growing up in poverty and the national average across the UK. To achieve this, we focus our work on strengthening the support that disadvantaged families receive to improve the home learning environment, cope with financial pressures and/or access high-quality formal childcare. Leveraging Nesta’s multiple capabilities, we use a multi-pronged approach to maximise the chances that change happens. For example, we work with families and frontline partners to design and deliver interventions to support the home learning environment, and evaluate their effectiveness at scale; we study the impacts of existing policies to make policy recommendations; we invest in ventures to create social impact through business; we build coalitions and campaigns to shift attitudes and norms. Whatever the approach we take, we strive to be evidence-led and impact-focused, and to measure the impact of our activities on our mission goal.

The Role
Nesta is looking to appoint one Lead Behavioural Scientist into our A Fairer Start mission. The work of the post holder could include working across many stages of the work of our teams, from shaping ongoing strategy developments, to scoping, designing, implementing and evaluating projects that contribute to our impactful portfolios of work.

As a Lead Behavioural Scientist you will:

  • Provide a behavioural science perspective, as part of a mixed method team, on a variety of projects. In Nesta’s A Fairer Start team, these could be aimed at supporting behaviour changes around parenting, helping parents cope with financial pressures or designing and implementing new initiatives to improve the quality of formal childcare.
  • Scope, design and lead projects, including project management, resourcing, relationship management, liaising with internal and external stakeholders and developing relationships with external partners.
  • Manage other members of the team; this is expected to be 1-3 people. You will be responsible for coaching and mentoring the people you manage, and developing their skills and expertise.
  • Manage stakeholder engagement and communications, including building new and strengthening existing relationships, speaking at events, promoting our work.
  • Undertake thought leadership, including proposing/reviewing project ideas, deepening our understanding of our theory of change and reviewing the impact of previous interventions and learning from them. This may also include representing our organisations externally, potentially through media appearances and written content
  • Preparing pitches/bids/proposals - whether for internal or external funding sources, including (at times) competitive tenders.
  • Ensure that quality is maintained across our research outputs, including by quality assuring outputs from other teams using behavioural science methods.
  • Upskill other members of the Fairer Start team to have knowledge of behavioural science methods and understand how to apply them in their work.

Candidate Criteria


We are looking for people who understand what we do, share our values and are keen to learn and develop their expertise. We are looking for candidates with the skills listed below. We expect to provide training and development support in some of the areas.

  • Practical experience of using behavioural science approaches. You have applied theoretical understanding to several practical challenges in the past, running projects from start to finish. You can explain the implications of theoretical concepts such as defaults, loss aversion and social norms. A relevant degree is welcome (behavioural economics, social psychology or related fields) and you will have been working to apply behavioural theory in real world settings.
  • Experience leading behavioural science projects. You can manage partners and projects, coordinate a team and communicate expertly with stakeholders to produce quality work within a reasonable time frame and budget. You are seen as a strong project manager as well as a great behavioural scientist.
  • Scoping projects and pitching for work. You are able to spot opportunities with new and existing partners, persuade others of the impact we could have (sometimes in competitive and commercial environments) and then develop the relationships required to form positive ongoing partnerships.
  • Managing and developing others. You can nurture talent and energise people to perform at their best. You care about the success, development and wellbeing of others and can have meaningful (and sometimes difficult!) conversations.
  • Public policy/service design. You are passionate about public policy and programmes aimed at improving the lives of people at scale. You can see both sides of an argument, and you can think about what makes some policies effective and others impractical.
  • A solid understanding of ‘causality’ and statistical reasoning. You know that just because sales of sunglasses and ice creams increase at the same time, one does not cause the other. You can also describe how to run a test to prove this. Experience running real world trials is ideal.
  • Clear and convincing communications. You can explain complex topics in simple terms. You can lead a workshop or presentation and write clearly and concisely.
  • Managing and developing yourself at work. You demonstrate high self-awareness and regularly self-reflect. You are aware of the impact that your actions and words have on those around you. You are resilient and accept responsibility for decisions whether they achieve the desired outcome or not.


  • Policy area expertise, including relationships with external partners, experts and representative groups. Relevant policy areas for this hiring round include early years or experience closing health and/or education gaps (note we would expect experience in just one of these areas and if you have great transferable expertise, that’s welcome instead).
  • Experience designing and delivering a programme of work with partners and/or clients that have generated social impact.
  • Good analytical skills including interpreting data, designing trials or evaluations and understanding impact measurement.

The Team

This role is in Nesta’s A Fairer Start team. Projects may involve:

  • Designing and evaluating interventions to support parents to apply new parenting skills, or helping childcare providers to implement effective CPD programmes
  • Supporting central and local governments or other relevant service providers to design behaviourally informed policies and practices aimed at improving child development in disadvantaged families .
  • Supporting partners develop a robust evaluation methodology including quantitative impact evaluations (e.g. RCTs, QEDs) and mixed method implementation and process evaluations.
  • Preparing policy notes for government officials or partner organisations about how to support early childhood development based on the best available behavioural science evidence.
  • Prepare proposals or pitches to expand our portfolio of socially impactful work.

As well as providing behavioural science solutions, we think critically about our social impact. This consists of thinking about who is affected when designing a project and involving a range of affected stakeholders, including parents and caregivers and early years practitioners in designing solutions. We are careful to assess the tradeoffs between short and long term project outcomes and the values that are promoted through our work.

Learning and development is a top priority in the team. There are opportunities for collaborative and individual learning available both inside and outside the organisations covering behavioural science and beyond.

What we offer

Salary: from £55,200 plus array of benefits, health care plan, the ability to buy and sell annual leave, eyecare vouchers and more.

Location: This role is based in London. All of our employees work in a hybrid model, expected to work from the office a minimum of two days per week.

Term: Permanent

Hours: This is a full-time role but we offer a range of flexible working arrangements and encourage our people to take advantage of them. Many do.

Reports to: Deputy Director in A Fairer Start

The role will start as soon as the recruitment is completed.

Making an application

To apply for this role, please submit your application before 8am on 24 June 2024.

Successful candidates will be invited to a first round interview. If successful, candidates may be invited to complete a short technical task and a second round interview.

Interviews will take place w/c 5 July 2024.

At Nesta Group, we believe that a diverse workforce leads to an organisation that is more innovative, more creative and gets better results.

We want our workforce to represent the diversity of the people and communities we serve. We also want our workplace to be one where different experiences, expertise and perspectives are valued, and where everyone is encouraged to grow and develop.

This means that when we are recruiting, we actively seek to reach a diverse pool of candidates. It also means that we are happy to consider any reasonable adjustments that potential employees may need to in order to be successful.

We recognise the importance of a good balance between work and home life, so we do everything we can to accommodate flexible working, including working from home, compressed or part-time hours, job shares and other arrangements.

Please just let us know in your application or at any stage throughout the process (and beyond) if these are options you’d like to explore.


Location: London, Hybrid
Salary: £55,200
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Permanent
Placed On: 7th June 2024
Closes: 24th June 2024
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