25 May, 2020 Last updated: 25 May, 2020

In 2014 VicHealth developed the Leading Thinkers initiative to connect international thought leaders with senior policymakers and key local experts. It aims to generate and provoke new thinking, inspire momentum, enable change, support and deepen relationships across sectors and, most importantly, deliver positive results for all Victorians.

This initiative will feature a series of multi-year residencies featuring eminent global practitioners who could spend an allocated period of time with VicHealth and mentor us, and our network of partners, in their practice.

VicHealth’s current Leading Thinkers are working with us to trial ways in which Victorian sporting organisations and workplaces can boost gender equality.

The latest Leading Thinker project is the first ever, large-scale big data analysis of the extent and nature of the portrayal of women and men in Victorian sports print media. The report, Buried Treasures and Missed Opportunities in Victorian Sports Reportingprovides new evidence to both inform the debate and to highlight challenges and opportunities. 


These important findings are a major step forward in better understanding gender portrayal in sports reporting and what needs to be done to reach gender equality goals in women's sports reporting. This report is vital to anyone who talks about, writes about or reports on sport. 


This research was supported by Swinburne Social Innovation Research Institute.


Additionally, the Quick Wins for Sporting Clubs checklist has been developed. Inspired by the Self-Assessment Gender Equality work, this checklist is helping sporting clubs to increase promotion, participation and leadership opportunities for women and girls. They’re mostly zero-cost, simple and evidence-based ideas and super easy to implement. 

Iris Bohnet

Professor Iris Bohnet

Professor Iris Bohnet is a Professor of Public Policy and a behavioral economist at Harvard Kennedy School, combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. Her most recent research examines behavioral design to de-bias how we live, learn and work.

Professor Bohnet served as the academic dean of the Kennedy School, is the director of its Women and Public Policy Program, the co-chair (with Max Bazerman) of the Behavioral Insights Group, an associate director of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, and the faculty chair of the executive program “Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century” for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. 

She serves on the boards of directors of Credit Suisse Group and University of Lucerne, as well as the advisory boards of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, EDGE and Applied, as well as numerous academic journals. She is a member of the Global Agenda Council on Behavior of the World Economic Forum.

Jeni Klugman

Dr Jeni Klugman

Jeni Klugman is Managing Director at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard University.  She advises VicHealth, together with Iris Bohnet, under an initiative that aims to make behavioural insights practical and accessible for Victorian government, industry and not-for-profit organisations. 

Ms Klugman's previous positions include Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, and director and lead author of three global Human Development Reports published by the UNDP.  She sits on several boards and panels, including for the World Economic Forum and the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Australian National University and postgraduate degrees in both Law and Development Economics from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

Professor Iris Bohnet keynote

As we embark on this exciting journey with VicHealth and stakeholders, we thought it would be useful to share the broad contours of the program in our report. This is motivated by the importance of gender equality not only for women and girls, but for firms, governments, not-for-profit organisations economies and societies more broadly. 

Click here to read the report on behavioural insights and gender equality.


During Prof Iris Bohnet’s visit to Melbourne (February 2019), VicHealth hosted a series of events that highlighted practical ways in which organisations can bring gender equality strategies to life.

The flagship Symposium event brought together prominent Victorian and Australian leaders to discuss the question: “Behavioural Insights & Gender Equality: How can we make it easier to go from intention to action”.  The program included Keynotes by Prof Iris Bohnet, the Hon. Julia Gillard AO and the Hon. Gabrielle Williams (Minister for Women); case study workshops hosted by influential partner organisations such as the Male Champions of Change, Office for Women & Behavioural Insights Team and the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, and a Panel discussion.

A Deliberative Forum was also convened to discuss and deliberate the question: ‘Behavioural Insights & Gender Equality: How can we make it easier to move from intention to action?

Over 70 academics, policy makers and practitioners heard from 20 What Workscase studies from a range of organisations, and deliberated on practices and approaches that could best advance action in gender equality efforts.

The final Participant Report captured the intellect, ideas and personal commitments of participants to progressing this work.




Previous Leading Thinkers

VicHealth’s inaugural Leading Thinker: Dr David Halpern

Dr David Halpern of the UK Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) joined VicHealth as our inaugural Leading Thinker in 2014. He has led BIT since its inception in 2010. Prior to that, David was the founding Director of the Institute for Government and between 2001 and 2007 was the Chief Analyst at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in the UK. 

Before entering government, David held tenure at Cambridge and posts at Oxford and Harvard. Behavioural insights bring together ideas from behavioural economics, psychology, and social anthropology. These fields seek to understand how individuals make decisions in practice and how they are likely to respond to options available to them. Their insights enable us to design policies or interventions that can encourage, support and enable people to make healthier choices.

The objectives of Dr Halpern’s residency were:

  • to assist VicHealth in building knowledge and capability in behavioural insights  and its application to health promotion, with a specific focus on trials targeting health behaviour change
  • to make these learnings and practices accessible across the Victorian public sector and our network of partners.

Oversight and governance for the Leading Thinkers initiative was provided through a combination of our lead partners, a Leading Thinkers Taskforce and an Obesity Expert Reference Panel.

Download: Dr David Halpern’s report on his residency, Behavioural insights and healthier lives (PDF, 2.5 MB)


Highlights of Dr Halpern’s residency

New knowledge about ‘what works’ in getting people to change their health behaviour

Trials: Seven behavioural trials designed for delivery by VicHealth and our partners. Within 12–15 months, some trials have achieved significant results, and all have provided new insight into how we use human behaviour to inform policy and practice.

A deliberative forum: Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity had 100 ‘everyday Victorians’ deliver a consensus view on the 20 recommendations, or ‘asks,’ that, if implemented by government, industry and civil society, would enable Victorians to eat better. 

Download: Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity insights report 2016 (PDF, 4.3 MB)


A growing capability within the Victorian public sector in applying behavioural insights concepts and practices to health promotion and across government

Workshop training: Eleven practical workshops enabled access to Behavioural Insights training for 395 public sector and non-profit professionals.

Public lectures: Seven public lectures conducted to provide almost 900 professionals with a basic understanding of behavioural insights concepts and their potential for application in health promotion.

New collaborations and partnerships

A community of practice: A community of practice is being launched for behavioural insights in health promotion, in collaboration with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and our trial partners.

An international partnership: Between VicHealth, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing in the UK and the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria focusing on mental wellbeing and resilience.


The Leading Thinkers initiative is designed so that each subsequent residency will extend the achievements of prior ones. VicHealth will continue to build on the outcomes of Dr Halpern’s work in the next Leading Thinker residency.