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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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How our thinking has developed

In little more than ten years, the world has witnessed tremendous change—unprecedented technological, economic and societal transformations. These changes have brought a fundamental redistribution of roles, accompanied by the gradual deconstruction of well-established architectures of power.

Respondents to the research acknowledge this, together with the potential that citizen engagement can play in helping authorities reconnect with the public, improve policy and services, reduce anti-government sentiment, and build trust. But achieving this is challenging in an era of falling levels of trust in government and public institutions.

Our research suggests that to rebuild trust, organisations need to ensure they create positive, relevant interactions with citizens. This means being more open, receptive and responsive. As one respondent noted, “trust is not one-way: citizens tend to trust authorities that trust them”.

Our view is that public authorities must empower the public to make and take decisions; use co-creation to help develop policies and services; and listen to what citizens say are their priorities and their expectations from government. But how?

Two years of extensive research has led us to the conclusion that good strategic engagement should be underpinned by a clear strategic framework. Several countries, including Taiwan and Canada, and multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank, have reached the same conclusion. Our own framework, developed jointly by the WPP Government and Public Sector Practice and Kantar Public, is based on key indicators that emerged from this research with both government communication practitioners and with citizens themselves.

We call this the 10C Framework and have identified three groups of factors that government communicators and policymakers should take into account when setting out to engage citizens.

Mobilising factors: factors likely to improve citizen acceptance and approval

Mobilising factor 1

Core narrative

Key question

Before undertaking citizen engagement activity, have you built a single, strategic story that establishes where your government or organisation is heading and what it wants to achieve? 


Crafting a shared positive vision of the project and motivation to build a better public realm can help determine whether citizens feel their future hopes and ambitions are likely to be fulfilled. By developing a core narrative, authorities can see whether they are creating an optimistic and ambitious impression of the future that citizens identify with.


Mobilising factor 2

Common good

Key question

Do you have a set of systems, communications and policies that reassure citizens you’re acting in the public interest?


Finding common ground and solutions that serve everyone’s interests can avoid the perception that public authorities work for the benefit of disconnected elites. The credibility of public authorities increases when citizens perceive them to be working on behalf of society as a whole and that they exercise power for the public good rather than for self-interest.


Mobilising factor 3


Key question

Do you have in place adequate initiatives to help unite different groups or sections of society?


Reinforcing equality and inclusion across communities, and a sense of unity within society or an institution is crucial.  Understanding which parts of society feel less engaged or integrated can help form the basis of better engagement.


Shaping factors: factors that build upon and reinforce the relationship between citizen and the state

Shaping factor 1


Key question

Do all groups in the community have adequate and equal opportunity to express opinions, preferences and demands?


Public authorities must reassure citizens that their leaders can understand and balance the complex interests of diverse groups.


Shaping factor 2

Cognitive system

Key question

Are you employing the right messaging and arguments to influence citizens’ behaviour?


The capacity to engage citizens emotionally as well as intellectually is vital to building public support. Organisations that can successfully communicate with citizens on an emotional level, recognising the inherent tensions involved in their behaviour, are likely to get better engagement and outcomes.


Shaping factor 3

Communication ecosystem

Key question

Do you have an efficient set of communication channels that are able to support citizens with clear, relevant and easy-to-understand information?


Authorities must manage the increasingly complex communication ecosystem if citizens are to receive the information they need in the way that best serves them.


Shaping factor 4


Key question

Is there consistency in the messages that you put out to the public through different channels, and consistency between what you say and what you do?


Maintaining consistency between what leaders say and what they do is at the heart of building public trust. Authorities must assess the public’s perception of the consistency between its communications and its actions over time.


Involvement factors: factors that further develop the relationship between the citizen and state, and actualise the benefits

Involvement factor 1


Key question

Are there adequate opportunities for citizens to organise, participate and develop new skills so they can deal with the evolving needs of the future?


Making citizens feel they are capable, equipped and empowered to achieve their goals and contribute to society is central to effective citizen engagement: how can authorities help citizens feel able to realise their ambitions for themselves and society?


Involvement factor 2


Key question

Do your current systems enable citizens to input into and shape decisions, policies and programmes in the public realm?


Involve citizens in the decision-making process so they feel their views are considered. Authorities must give citizens the sense that they are contributing to decision-making. This means being open and receptive to their input, which can in turn generate public support.


Involvement factor 3


Key question

How will you reward citizens who participate?


Reward citizens for their engagement so they feel like valued stakeholders. For many citizens, having their input and effort recognised not only produces a positive reaction, but can provide motivation to engage further.


We’ve piloted this model successfully in eight countries. By breaking engagement down intoits constituent parts, the model can help public authorities identify the audiences that have the largest estimated potential for positive impact; find the right levers, channels, content and touchpoints to reach that audience; and develop the right kind of activities and messaging. This approach combines quantitative research with artificial intelligence and machine learning. It employs Bayesian inference and advanced modelling techniques to size and analyse the potential impact of a given group to create an overall Engagement Index.

The 10C framework allows organisations to set KPIs and measure Return On Investment (ROI) as they work to build a better public realm. By taking this kind of insights-driven and outcome-focused approach to citizen engagement, authorities can start to develop a strategy that helps government reconnect with their public and work towards building a better, more trusting relationship.

To discuss how the 10Cs can help your organisation, please contact

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