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THE LEADERS'
REPORT 2.0

Welcome to The Leaders’ Report: Increasing trust through citizen engagement.

Spanning over 50 countries this study provides a comprehensive, global overview of how government communicators are thinking about citizen engagement, the challenges they face, how they are addressing them, and what issues lie behind the challenges identified.

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  • France
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Luxemburg
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • Bahrain
  • UAE
  • KSA
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Morocco
  • Iraq
  • US
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Indonesia
  • Myanmar
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong (SAR of China)
  • Taiwan (China)
  • China
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

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THE LEADERS' REPORT 2.0

Confidence

There is a lack of confidence in how governments implement citizen engagement activities

Communication professionals believe that ministers, other politicians, and policymakers are not always willing to cede power to citizens. Respondents identified three primary barriers to using citizen engagement in their organisations:

  • Risk aversion among politicians and policymakers;
  • A lack of willingness to devolve power and influence to citizens. Respondents often said their organisation was reluctant to cede control, and lacked the agility to conduct and implement engagement activities;
  • Uncertainty about how to prepare for and manage any potential unintended or unforeseen consequences of increasing citizen engagement (for example, citizens making unrealistic or impractical requests).

“Our experience across a fairly broad set of citizen engagement scenarios is the people most likely to opt in are those who are opposed to whatever the policy or project is, so we supplement direct engagement with research to make sure we capture the views across the citizenry.”
Communication Leader, Australasia

The Detail

The growing unpredictability of publics and the ability of citizens to share information and amplify points of view at speed have understandably made governments cautious.

“Power is now in the hands of citizens. Everyone can be a lobbyist. Outside organisations can mobilise individual people to influence members. So, for the Parliament, citizen engagement has to progress in the hands of both members and citizens.”
Communication Leader, Multilateral Organisation

Our quantitative research suggested that this lack of confidence was reflected in the engagement level that government organisations were choosing. The vast majority (77%) of communication professionals stated that engagement activities in their organisation are generally conducted at lower levels. While this might seem to manage the risk of ceding decision-making power to citizens, it also diminishes the potential for increasing citizen agency, transparency and trust.

These results indicate that citizen engagement in many cases is not moving beyond the level of soliciting opinions. Lower-order activities do not offer the same potential to influence policy or engage audiences. Our research also found that lower-order activities were more likely to end at the consultation phase.

  • Respondents stated that these ‘listening exercises’ are only influencing policy around 50% of the time.

This means that for much of the time, communicators are gathering opinions that will have no tangible impact on policy development or delivery. Fear of risk among politicians and policymakers means that communication professionals are not receiving the backing and buy-in they require to deliver higher-order citizen engagement.

“There is a fear within the organisation of a lack of control. Listening and engaging means we may lose control: it increases the risk. We don’t like risk. Most of the senior management team and our government bodies prevent us from taking risks.”
Communication Leader, Western Europe

The research also suggests that government communication and their policymaking colleagues lack confidence in their ability to effectively explain complex public issues to citizens in a simplified yet meaningful way.

Read full report here