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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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Our work globally since 2016 has found that government communication professionals around the world continue to face significant challenges in maintaining public trust in their government’s competency and integrity. Both our quantitative and qualitative research showed that the optimism and promise surrounding citizen engagement two years ago has seen more communication leaders advocate for increased consultation and dialogue with citizens. There is an appetite to embrace new techniques and technologies and a genuine willingness to partner with citizens on a wide range of policy issues.

However, respondents globally shared a frustration that this commitment to greater citizen engagement rarely extended as far as empowering citizens to influence policy outcomes. There was widespread recognition that politicians and policymakers were worried about the potential risks of greater citizen engagement: populist political sentiment and new technology have formed a potent combination that can allow relatively small groups to become prominent yet unrepresentative voices in society. Governments are struggling to meet the needs of increasingly unpredictable publics, and to protect society as a whole from vocal minorities and special interests adept at exploiting the new media landscape and the politics of emotion.

The five key findings

While some governments have begun to change their outlook and approach to skills, training and capability—for example, by establishing bespoke citizen engagement teams—the problems of trust, two-way conversation, embracing personalised communication, integrating communications with policy development and bridging the skills and knowledge gap have increased as citizens’ needs continue to rapidly evolve.

Globally, respondents felt that citizen engagement activities aim to strike a difficult balance. Its promise and potential is widely recognised, but organisations remain cautious about ceding power to citizens. Governments are trying to manage demands that can often be in tension with each other: protecting the interests of society as a whole and allowing citizens to make decisions that may be divisive or come at the expense of other citizens’ wishes or values. This tension has often led to engagement activities being limited in scope and efficacy.

The current state of the profession is one of impasse. Organisations are running citizen engagement activities more often but failing to use them to help develop and deliver better policy. Many organisations require an attitudinal shift, one that is more willing to engage with citizens.

Additionally, the profession needs greater support and resources in order to deliver effective citizen engagement at a level that makes a meaningful impact. This may mean being more judicious and selective about undertaking activities but doing so with greater strategic focus, resource and political and policymaker buy-in.

The research suggests that globally there is a distinct absence of strategy and frameworks to help government rebuild trust with citizens and understand the role of engagement activities in this overarching relationship. The findings fall under the following five headings.

Read full report here