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Greenstreet berman Communicating risk and engaging in discourse with a lay audience. Michael Wright, Director, Greenstreet Berman Ltd

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Presentation on theme: "Greenstreet berman Communicating risk and engaging in discourse with a lay audience. Michael Wright, Director, Greenstreet Berman Ltd"— Presentation transcript:

1 greenstreet berman Communicating risk and engaging in discourse with a lay audience. Michael Wright, Director, Greenstreet Berman Ltd T: 020 3102 2117

2 greenstreet berman BSE (mad cow disease) Government dismissed uncertainty about level of risk due to: –fear of public over reaction; and –assumptions that public could not understand uncertainty. Risk characterisation was ambiguous and hard to interpret. Assumptions and basis for advice not communicated. Counter productive strategy led to loss of trust & credibility. Subsequent drip feed of new risk information appeared forced upon government.

3 greenstreet berman One Barnet One Barnet. Alleged that no mention of £600m outsourcing in any document. Court case verdict pending regarding alleged lack of consultation. 8,000 opposition petition.

4 greenstreet berman 2006 Energy Review Successful judicial review by Greenpeace –offers no information whatsoever on what any new nuclear programme might look like and people are being asked to comment on the potential contribution of a new nuclear programme without any of the key aspects …..having been addressed. Review decision process not transparent. Consultation characterised as a sham (a tick box exercise), where the decision is already made and alternatives to nuclear power not considered. It was alleged: –lack of information disclosure. –debate about nuclear risks avoided. –consultation period too short.

5 greenstreet berman 2007 energy review consultation Criticisms of new 2007 energy review consultation: This will change the consultation, this won't affect the policy at all (Tony Blair). Run by DTI – who were committed to nuclear power. Twinned nuclear power with climate change (underplaying point that NP only reduce CO 2 by 4%). Market Research Board found that..information was inaccurately or misleadingly presented, or was imbalanced, which gave rise to a material risk of respondents being led towards a particular answer. –'There have been no events relating to a civil nuclear power station in the UK which have had any consequence outside the nuclear power station itself'.

6 greenstreet berman NIREX Accusations of: –West Cumbria geologically unsuitable. –Other better suited sites not properly considered. –Information withheld. –Site selection process biased, driven by a wish to locate repository at Sellafield.

7 greenstreet berman Work related learning Removal of duty on schools to provide work related learning at key stage 4. 89% opposed the proposal. Duty removed in 2012. It is difficult to see what the purpose of the consultation exercise was if, despite this wholly unambiguous message, the DfE ploughs on with its policy regardless.

8 greenstreet berman Common themes Perception that decisions were made before consultation and/or despite opposition during consultation. Lack of transparency (breeds mistrust). Communicator not seen as independent. Ambiguous information. Counter productive reassurances. Skip over uncertainty. Perception of skewed questions. Failure to address stakeholder questions & concerns.

9 greenstreet berman Lessons learnt Status of consultation –Are consultation responses binding? –Is majority response a criteria? –Is it meant to be representative? Framing the purpose of consultation –To evaluate options? –To inform whether to proceed? –Help shape plans? –Check for unforeseen risks? –Sense check proposals? What are you willing to change? When to consult and on what? What is role of consultation vs other inputs to decision?

10 greenstreet berman Stages of decision making vs purpose of consultation Breadth & purpose of consultation Purpose of consultation Information gathering & informing. Involve & use public expertise. Shared decision making. Sense checking. Fine tuning plans. Stage of decision making Evaluating /scoping the problem. Identifying options. Assessing options. Refining & checking preferred option. Planning implementation.

11 greenstreet berman Openness (transparency) Full disclosure early on –Avoid perception of enforced drip feed of with held information. Key information –Decision process; –Basis of identifying options; –Basis of assessments; –Assumptions; and –Uncertainties.

12 greenstreet berman Communication Communication is an interaction.... an exchange of information: –Listening. –Showing you have listened. –Expressing empathy, respecting concerns. Avoiding accusations of framing: –Open ended questions. –Bi polar questions. –Present facts, avoid opinions or judgements.

13 greenstreet berman Risk communication Nature of the hazard; Who or what is at risk; Magnitude of risk; Likelihood; Uncertainty; Pictorial as well as words & numbers; Avoid judgments – actual or implied.

14 greenstreet berman Flooding risk map

15 greenstreet berman Uncertainty Acknowledge uncertainty & scientific disputes. Identify uncertainties, source, type & extent. Indicate how uncertainties change assessment outcomes. Indicate how uncertainties are included in risk assessments. Be specific about how you are trying to reduce uncertainties.

16 greenstreet berman Risk perception factors Involuntary, inescapable, inequitable, unfamiliar, uncertain, contradictions, involuntary, dreadful, vulnerable... Subjective risk discourse Subjective aspects of risk discourse: –Why tolerate any risk? –Imposed risk. –Perceived control. –Who benefits, who experiences risk. –Fairness. –Trust. –Confidence. Addressing prior beliefs: –If you do not address prior beliefs whatever you say will be interpreted according to these prior beliefs, whether they are right or wrong. –You need to know your audience!

17 greenstreet berman Presenting risk levels Comparison with: –Standards. –Same type of hazard. –Put risk on scale of similar risks. Present risk estimates from different sources. Do not trivialise or compare to different categories of risks. Dont assume the audience understand the numbers. Cycling 1 in 16,000 Sailing 1 in 20,000 Driving 1 in 50,000 Fire in the home 1 in 200,0000 Carbon monoxide poisoning 1 in 1,000,0000 Chance of death each year

18 greenstreet berman Presenting risk levels Railway accident killing 100 people Frequency 1 in 20 years Tidal surge overcomes Thames Barrier causing many deaths 1 in 1,000 years Uncontrolled release of radiation from a nuclear power plant 1 in one million years Canvey Island chemical plants 1 in 5,000 years

19 greenstreet berman Engaging people Knowing your audience: –Prior knowledge, interest & concerns. How to reach them & forms of engagement. Matching information to audience segments. Explaining how their input will be used. Transparent process of acting on feedback. Closing the feedback loop - feeding back how their input has been used.

20 greenstreet berman Neutral Messengers need to be seen as independent. Present results not judgments or opinions on virtues of proposals. More neutral Less neutral Independently or jointly funded/selected organisation or representative body Occasionally funded experts Regular or retained consultancy / experts Arm of the owner of the proposal Owners of the proposal

21 greenstreet berman SPOCEN Status of the consultation. Purpose of the consultation. Openness. Communication. Engagement. Neutrality.

22 greenstreet berman Benefits of engagement More informed and better quality decisions; Ensuring decisions are rational, equitable and defensible; License to operate (social as well as regulatory); Establishing legitimacy for business practice; Easing implementation; Build trust; Build shared understanding and agreements with stakeholder groups; Managing your reputation; Improving understanding of attitudes and behaviour; and Minimising conflict, preventing misunderstandings, avoiding delays.

23 greenstreet berman Thank you

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