If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.

Geena Davis

Engaging the public

In many of our studies we consult the public to understand how attitudes and experience affect perceptions of the issues being studied and, crucially, the acceptability of different solutions. This consultation can take many different forms including:

  • On-line surveys
  • Telephone interviews
  • Face to face interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Workshops
  • Seminars.

Surveys will often include a quantitative element, to gauge the breadth of opinion, as well as a qualitative component to understand why people think as they do. Whilst we are skilled in all of these techniques, we also partner with specialist market research organisations, such as GfK-NOP and MORI, for larger surveys.

In addition to these general capabilities, we have particular experience in the areas of understanding societal concern and risk communications.

Understanding Societal Concern

The public often shows increased concern about particular issues, and being able to understand the cause of the concern is important for knowing how best to respond. Risk Solutions created a model to analyse societal concern for the Health and Safety Executive, and has since developed it to consider perceptions of railway safety for the Rail Safety and Standards Board. The model captures all the drivers of risk perception and fear that are cited in the academic social research literature, including:

  • Dread
  • Perceived inequity
  • Trust in those charged with protecting the public
  • Perceived characteristics of the risk itself (i.e. its immediacy and impact).

Using focus groups, the public are asked to rank particular scenarios in terms of their ‘concern’ and the responses are analysed to determine whether the issue is of high concern and, if so, what is driving that concern. The model produces results that are consistent with the social research in the field and is repeatable, producing statistically relevant results.

Risk Communication

One of the outcomes from our societal concern model may be that there is a need to communicate more about a specific risk issue. This can have several purposes:

  • To inform the public about the relative importance or significance of the risk
  • To communicate what is actually being done to manage the risk
  • To influence and change attitudes/beliefs.

An important aspect of risk communication is to tailor the ‘message’ to the intended audience and the specific objectives of the communication exercise. The audience can range from policy or decision makers to special interest groups and members of the public. Risk Solutions has considerable experience of developing and implementing risk communication plans, and is particularly skilled in ensuring that the scale of the risks and any uncertainties involved are communicated in meaningful language.

Our work on risk communications for the Inter-Departmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (now replaced by HM Treasury’s Risk Support Team) provides several examples of good and bad practice in the area.


EXAMPLE CASE STUDIES:

To find out more about this Service in relation to a specific Sector, please select a Sector from the list below: