Despite the good intentions of those who send unrequested goods to humanitarian crises zones, the global evidence shows that in reality, unrequested goods actually result in significant negative impacts on the disaster zone.

For example, 10 months after Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in 2015, the Australian Red Cross (ARC) reported that there were still 18 shipping containers full of unrequested goods left on the wharf in Port Vila. These containers had accumulated USD$1.5 million dollars in storage, handling and container rental fees - costs borne by the government of Vanuatu. The stark conclusions of the ARC report inspired action.

In June 2017, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) - with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - briefed The Behavioural Architects on a behavioural research project to try and reduce the number of unrequested goods sent from Australia.

The insights surfaced from The Behavioural Architects' contextual research in November 2017, as well as behavioural science, informed the development of a strategic messaging recommendation and specifically, four nudge ideas, optimized by behavioural economics. In February 2018, quantitative testing revealed the most behaviourally disruptive nudge idea was one that that stated the fact that 'most unrequested goods end up in landfill'. This message was highly disruptive and reduced the likelihood of sending goods by an enormous 50% - more than double the impact of the widely used positive messaging of 'cash is best'. The findings - drawn from a rigorous methodology -propose new foundations for public messaging and have already been shared with NGO members like the Red Cross and many more, right across Australia. Future plans include the development of communications materials that will use these new insights to effectively reduce the amount of unrequested goods being sent. Ultimately, these new insights provide the opportunity to decrease the negative impacts on disaster zones, the world over.

Executive summary