Skip to main content

Photo by Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

Getting Citizens More Involved in Policy Making

Sector: Financial services, Health, Energy, Government, NGO, Digital and technology, Education

Team: Owain, Umar, Eugene

Partner: Engage Britain and UNDP

Discussion platform

Getting Citizens More Involved in Policy Making

We worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a better way of engaging young people in conversations on key issues affecting their countries.

The Challenge

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wanted to find new and better ways of understanding the viewpoints of large numbers of people. UNDP was especially interested in gauging the views of younger people in Pakistan, Bhutan and Timor Leste on critical policy questions, such as what they thought their governments should be doing to tackle climate change. So they asked CogCo to help them develop a new and more engaging way of getting people involved in these policy discussions.

The Approach

The CogCo team worked with UNDP to devise a method for running ‘deliberative polls’. A deliberative poll can be run online, and involves asking participants a question (which in UNDP’s case, for example, was ‘what should [country X] do to tackle climate change’). Other participants then get a chance to give their responses to the headline question, or to say whether they ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with other people’s opinions. By combining this highly engaging method with big outreach programmes, mass texting campaigns and representative samples of the population, we were able to crowdsource huge numbers of participants. The scale of the engagement enabled us to identify distinct patterns of responses, including where there was strong consensus; where opinions were most divided; and where answers to different questions clustered, revealing distinct opinion groups.

Figure 1: Examples of outreach used by UNDP in Pakistan

The Result

Across Pakistan, Bhutan, and Timor Leste, more than a million votes were cast, making it the biggest study of its kind ever conducted in the global south. In Pakistan, for example, where the question focused specifically on climate change, there was widespread agreement amongst the young people who participated in areas such as the need to move towards more renewable energy sources; to control traffic pollution; and to do more to raise awareness of the issues in schools. While issues relating to population planning created divisions of opinion around which the clusterings of opinion formed.

Figure 2: A scatter plot showing the distribution of all the statements that participants voted on. Statements on the left hand side show strong consensus, those to the right (such as the one highlighted) show strong divisions

(C) UNDP

All in all, this method for gauging large numbers of participants’ opinions in diverse countries on complex policy issues helped us to gain a deeper understanding of where consensus and fault lines of opinion lay.

"CogCo has helped us engage youth and hear their ideas and concerns in new and exciting ways. The potential policymaking implications are enormous"

-Laura Sheridan, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of UNDP

Read recommended case studies

Understanding What Influences Job Decisions: Is Money All that Matters?

Governments and firms regularly grapple with the question of how to attract particular employees to their shores, to different sectors of the economy, or to their workplace rather than that of a competitor. Research intensive firms might want to attract the best scientists. Often just as urgently, there might be a critical need for low-paid employees in sectors in which local citizens are reluctant to work, such as fruit picking in the US and the UK. Or there may be a need to encourage citizens to take up private-sector roles in countries where the public sector is particularly attractive, such as in parts of the Middle East. When considering how to encourage people to move into new roles or locations, governments and firms often focus on extrinsic rewards — the pay, benefits or even visa facilitation that can influence an individual’s decision. But a growing range of research shows that these extrinsic rewards are only part of the picture. Together with the global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, we set out to explore the other factors that should be taken into account.

Understanding how Citizens Respond to Risk

All of us are confronted by risks every day. We could be hit by a car when crossing a road. We might take a pill which has potential side-effects. Or we could be weighing up a business decision that looks sensible but might turn sour at some distant point. Decades of behavioural science research have taught us that there are many factors that influence our risk-based judgements. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, these became all the more important. So in partnership with FGS Global, the global strategic communications firm, we set out to create an evidence-based framework that could be used by individuals communicating risk to consumers or citizens.

Interested in working with us?

Get in touch at info@cogco.co

Copied to clipboard