Public consultations strive to make policies more effective. They aim to listen to and implement the public’s views. But do they? The respondents to public consultations tend to lack diversity. Consultations often fail to enable broad stakeholder participation. Stakeholders with similar preferences or expertise, known as ‘’the usual suspects’’ (Collis, 2021), tend to be invited to public consultations.
The views of some people are often overlooked. Those who ‘’look good, smell good, drive fancy cars and speak the same language that the bureaucrats and the policy-makers speak’’ tend to be favoured (Jayaraman, 2013). Policymakers feel comfortable with this type of person, even if their views clash. This highlights a number of issues with public consultations:
Public consultations consistently often involve people with the most time to respond, and have particularly strong views. If they are to attract an audience which represents the full range of views, then organisations need to take steps to improve accessibility.
Watch this space for some solutions!
Blog written by Alex Markovits as part of his internship at PinkGold Ltd, via the Swansea University Graduate Support Programme. Alex has a Masters with Distinction in Strategic Marketing and is available from April to join project teams to provide research support.
Collis, A. (2021). Not Just the Usual Suspects: Designing a New Method for Public Consultation. Bangor University (United Kingdom). Microsoft Word - A Collis Not Just The Usual Suspects (bangor.ac.uk)
Jayaraman, N. (2013). No Public in Public Consultations. In Coelho, K., Kamath, L. and Vijayabaskar, M. (Eds.) Participolis (pp. 302-305). Routledge India. No Public