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Getting Citizens More Involved in Policy Making

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

Team: Umar, Max, Sidney

Partner: Engage Britain and UNDP


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


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

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