Thursday, July 20, 2017

Case Study: Exploratory research project on the 1290 expulsion of the Jews from England for the Migration Museum Project


The Migration Museum Project (MMP) are planning a new London-based exhibition in September 2017 called “No Turning Back.” The UK charity, which aims to create a museum on migration for Britain, is working with volunteer researchers on six different moments of significance in Britain’s migration past and present to build their knowledge of these moments and develop a public exhibit that is accessible to all ages and a range of audiences.

OPM Group’s Corporate Responsibility Working Group (CRWG) volunteered to contribute to this exploratory research with the MMP. Research on one moment, “The 1290 Expulsion of the Jews from England” began in March 2017 and was completed in June 2017.



OPM Group provided a team of eight volunteer researchers to gather data and manage the collection of facts, images and stories relating to one of six moments the MMP will feature in “No Turning Back”. For the research, we also identified key artists and experts for the MMP to gain additional insight and resources. Volunteer researchers used Google searching and contacts established through the MMP to develop an initial scoping of extant information on the moment.

We then wrote an interim report for the MMP and received guidance on areas for further exploration from the its research and curatorial leads. Volunteer researchers completed additional research on the moment and a final report was submitted to the MMP in June 2017.



Our detailed and accessible report has allowed the MMProject to incorporate an exhibit on the 1290 expulsion of the Jews because of the information we collected. The MMP is pleased with the result of this voluntary work:

Thank you so much for all your hard work on our account and for your beautifully presented and detailed document. It has helped us a great deal, saved us a huge amount of time and we would never have managed this without you. I hope we can do you justice in the final exhibition.” – Museum Curator.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Leap Second Day!

Blink.. and you just might miss it.

Scientists are adding an extra second to our clocks on Tuesday, June 30. The one extra second is called a ‘leap second,’ and put simply, every few years it ensures that the Earth’s rotation, which is gradually slowing, catches up with atomic clocks, keeping official time neatly in sync with night and day.

Leap seconds have been added to the world’s computers around once a year since 1972 – this is the 27th – but this occasion could also be the last. The world’s time keepers are divided over the issue, with some arguing that the periodic insertion of leap seconds can cause problems to systems such as computers and communications networks.

In May 2014 the then Science and Universities Minister David Willetts launched a public dialogue on leap seconds to help inform the future position of the UK Government on this ‘timely’ issue. The National Measurement Office (now the National Measurement and Regulation Office), in conjunction with Sciencewise, commissioned OPM Group to conduct this public dialogue throughout the UK.

A final decision on whether to keep time linked to the sun and the earth’s rotation, or to stop adding the leap seconds which maintain the link is due to be reached in November at a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union, the relevant UN body. Until then, OPM’s Leap Seconds UK Public Dialogue Final Report and blog present the public’s view of the full implications of ceasing the relationship between the sun and the time on our clocks.


If you have any further questions about the dialogue, please contact OPM’s Tracey Bedford or email more information on the methodology and outcome, please see the Leap Seconds UK Public Dialogue case study.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Raising the public voice in infrastructure decision making

New policy paper proposes how best to engage concerning major infrastructure

Current decision-making and consultation processes have led to a widespread and deep-rooted lack of trust, eroding belief in the shared nature of infrastructure. The persistent absence of public acceptance is producing a planning system unable to respond coherently to the future needs of society.

‘Infrastructure and the Citizen’, a collection of four short essays by Consultation and Engagement specialists Dialogue by Design and UCL Transport Institute reveal whether depoliticising infrastructure, viewing it as a social contract, considering it as a special case for dialogue, or accepting it as shared with society would enhance or diminish the public voice in decision making.

Advancing the debate around public engagement practice that took place between participants and speakers at the ‘We Need to Talk About Infrastructure’ seminar co-hosted by the two organisations, the paper proposes:



Diane Beddoes, Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design said:

“Many of the new infrastructure projects we run consultations for are contested by individuals, communities and sometimes stakeholders. Infrastructure projects of national significance have impacts – both positive and negative – on local people and communities that need to be heard and understood.  We believe that good engagement on new infrastructure projects can help to improve the quality of decision-making, reduce risk and ensure that the views of those affected are taken into consideration. If we are serious about infrastructure investment, then we must be equally serious about effective dialogue and consultation with opponents and proponents. We hope the key recommendations in this report are taken seriously”



Note to Editors

The ‘We Need to Talk About Infrastructure’ seminar was held on Monday 23rd March 2015 at NCVO, Society House, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL. The debate was chaired by Jim Steer (Founder, Steer Davies Gleave), with speakers Professor Brian Collins (Professor of Engineering Policy and Director, International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF), UCL), Dr Jack Stilgoe (Lecturer in Social Studies of Science, UCL), Diane Beddoes (Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design) and Will Bridges (Lead Consents Officer, North West Coast Connections, National Grid).


About Dialogue by Design

Dialogue by Design designs and delivers bespoke public and stakeholder engagement and consultation services. Dialogue by Design specialises in handling consultations on contentious or technically complex issues and are experts at running consultations for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Dialogue by Design with sister company OPM comprises the OPM Group: an independent, employee-owned research organisation and consultancy.         



About UCL Transport Institute

The UCL Transport Institute has been set up to foster cross-disciplinary transport research and to increase the policy impact of that research.        



For further information please contact:

Lawrence Finkle


t: 0207 239 7800

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Infrastructure and the Citizen

A simple question was posed at the We Need to Talk about Infrastructure seminar co-hosted by Dialogue by Design and the UCL Transport Institute: when Government plans to invest £375 billion in infrastructure projects up to 2020, how can this be done with local communities, rather than against them?

Rather than produce a summary of the event, the authors have reflected on what was heard and learnt, and wrote a few short pieces on how the discussions that took place could advance the conversation about how best to engage concerning major infrastructure. Four themes are addressed:

Morgan Wild, Project Manager at Dialogue by Design, discusses the extent to which taking the politics out of infrastructure decision making
could enhance the public’s voice;

Dr Tom Cohen, Deputy Director of the UCL Transport Institute asks what it means for engagement to be seen as part of a social contract;

Ian Thompson, Analysis Manager at Dialogue by Design, discusses the extent to which infrastructure presents special problems for engagement and dialogue; and

Elena de Besi, Project Coordinator at Dialogue by Design, discusses the opportunities that our ‘sharing’ of infrastructure creates for overcoming the lack of public acceptance and the consequences in terms of engagement and planning.

Because the meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule (Chatham House 2014), quotations are not attributed to individuals.


About Dialogue by Design

Dialogue by Design with sister company OPM comprises the OPM Group: an independent, employee-owned research organisation and consultancy.

Dialogue by Design designs and delivers bespoke public and stakeholder engagement and consultation services. Dialogue by Design specialises in handling consultations on contentious or technically complex issues and are experts at running consultations for nationally significant infrastructure projects.         



Friday, March 27, 2015

Back to the Future: The Great Exhibition and NESTA’s FutureFest

NESTAs FutureFest earlier this month was in some ways a very old fashioned affair.

For all its future-gazing, it felt very much in the tradition of the 1851 Great Exhibition, with its mix of wonderment sideshows and learned talks by politicians, innovators, academics and journalists, including Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and author of ‘The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It’, Owen Jones.  They alternately wowed us with futuristic inventions and heralded the end of the world as we know it.

This mix of physical wonder and mental stimulation is a winning formula for FutureFest and one that merits a bigger, more public stage to involve everyone in the debate.

The physical wonder came in many forms:  The ‘Immerse’ space offered futuristic thrills such as the ‘Blind Robot’ whose touch-sensing robotic hands danced across your face and hair.  Suzannah’s ride on Neurosis, the world’s first thrill ride powered by neuro data, left her brain sparking with possibilities and she went to the next learned talk on the collaborative economy more awake and more focused than any coffee hit could have provided.


FutureFest collage 2


The mental stimulation in the ‘Debate’ and ‘Explore’ chambers of the FutureFest space did not disappoint either, including these highlights:

‘Does the Future needs elites’: Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist stated the case for the role of elites as leaders who make society’s most difficult decisions.  He argued for a more structured elite, for example, taking infrastructure decisions out of the hands of politicians who are subject to electoral cycles and as a consequence defer long term decisions, such as increasing airport capacity and building power stations.

Opposing him was Owen Jones, decrying the revolving door of elites that binds them together in lucrative post-politics non-exec board posts.

Between them, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC made the case for bringing ordinary people more frequently into the decision making process, inspired by her work with juries where she was convinced that good evidence, put before people, equalled good decisions. (We’ve blogged elsewhere on what society could learn from the wider use of participatory events such as the jury trial).

In ‘All Together Now’, a truly adversarial debate raised the temperature in the ‘Debate’ space, as the panellists considered the potential (and potential hijack) of the sharing economy.

Dave Boyle’s co-operative ideals were pitted against the venture capitalist peer-to-peer service TaskRabbit, with Michel Bauwen’s call to arms for open source and knowledge sharing.

Discussing peer-to-peer services such as Airbnb, the panellists asked ‘what happens when your boss is an algorithm?’ In defence of the Co-operative (yet also acknowledging its failure to keep up with the times) Dave Boyle’s opening comments alone raised an applause that lasted for almost a minute…

As the weekend came to a close, lead-curator Pat Kane (yes, he of ‘Hue & Cry’ fame) suggested we are all biologically hard-wired to think about the future. Maybe there’s something to be said for making future FutureFest a bigger and more public spectacle on the scale of the Great Exhibition, to help excite conversations about our future democracy, lifestyles and dreams, so that everybody is along for the ride…


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spending the 1%: The potential for participatory budgeting on a national scale

The label ‘the 1%’ usually carries connotations of elitism and exclusion when mentioned in a political context, conjuring up images of a super-rich elite lording it over what they might refer to as the ‘hoi polloi’.

However, a very different 1% was discussed at a recent event organised by the UK Open Government Civil Society Network.

It was suggested that Parliament might be persuaded into committing 1% of its national budget to ‘participatory budgeting’ as part of the UK’s international commitment to ‘open government’, or in other words, designing processes that would allow members of the public to decide what allocated money should be used for.

An amount of that size dedicated to participatory budgeting – in the hope of empowering the population to make decisions about how their taxes are spent in a direct and meaningful way to compliment the slower machinery of our democratic system – is an exciting, yet radical proposal. After all, 1% of the UK government budget equates to well over £7 billion a year when calculated against the £730 billion spent by government in 2014-15.

How would it work?

Participatory budgeting would allow members of the public to decide how an apportioned central budget is spent. Typically this would require sampling a small group of the population and affording them the time and access to the information needed to make informed decisions about how to allocate these funds. We observed how this approach can lead to really positive results in a project co-delivered with NESTA a couple of years ago, both in terms of reaching budget decisions better informed by citizens and in encouraging a wider participation in civic life.

It would be important to consider the level at which the budget should be given to members of the public if scaling up: whether to separate this £7 billion at source and divide the shortfall among government departments, or to stipulate that the many bodies of government across the country commit to spending 1% of their budget through a participatory approach. Irrespective of the method, the guiding principle of participatory budgeting must be that members of the public are given the platform to truly engage with difficult budgetary decisions that are otherwise made on their behalf. This approach is mutually beneficial in helping to build a wider understanding of the challenges faced by governing bodies, while also helping to inform those governing bodies of where people’s values actually lie.

Is this actually a good idea?

Public expenditure is constrained and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Should we not defer to the experts to identify exactly how best to spend these funds? Perhaps we need to wait for a more stable economic climate before experimenting in such a manner?

I would argue that many of the difficult decisions being faced by budget holders at the moment are exactly those that types of deliberative engagement, such as participatory budgeting, would be best placed to tackle. There are not enough funds to be shared among of the worthy national and local causes in need of them – while experts can help to find ways to make the most of the resources we have, the really important questions revolve around what we as a society value most.

Sophie Wilson has recently argued that in morally and factually complex settings, well-run public deliberation can be one of the most effective ways to reach a good decision. As an advocate of deliberative engagement myself, I believe this approach to decision making would enable individuals to really get to grips with public finances, allowing them to make difficult decisions themselves, rather than relying on political slogans and gut reactions. This could potentially lead to a more informed, more engaged electorate.

Is it possible?

The biggest challenge would be to persuade a newly elected government to agree to relinquish control of 1% of their budget. I suspect that this proposal may be too radical for many of our political elite. Having said that, fascinating international precedents have been set. Over $25 million of district money is annually spent through participatory budgeting in New York City with reportedly impressive results, and similarly the mayor of Paris has recently committed to spend 5% of the city hall investment budget in a participatory manner.

1% of national expenditure might be too much to ask for, but a more modest increase in the profile and use of participatory budgeting as a powerful tool for increased democratic engagement is certainly possible, and dare I say likely, in the near future.

Want to know more?

A number of other ideas that the UK Open Government Civil Society Network are considering are available for information and comment on their website.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Public deliberation in the dock: reflections of a juror

It was not without a hint of anxiety that I arrived at my local crown court in mid-February having received a stern looking summons two months before requesting my appearance in court. It was my time to carry out the civic duty of sitting for two weeks as a juror.

And certainly there was a lot of sitting. As a researcher in the Engagement Team at OPM I have participated in numerous deliberative events and believe in the importance of involving the public in decision-making processes, so here I had the opportunity to observe why the jury trial is indeed one of the key deliberative events staged in society. It is a unique example of a shrouded state process opened up to lay members on a daily basis, providing a first-hand experience of how justice is delivered – thankfully correcting my previous understandings based predominantly on crime dramas.

However, when I first arrived in the ‘jury assembly area’ with around 150 others I couldn’t have been the only one to have questioned the expense and efficiency of it all.

There was a lot of waiting around, court proceedings were slow, and above all else the cost of paying jurors’ lost income and expenses alone, I thought, must be astronomical. These criticisms and others have been levelled at the jury trial in the past: public deliberations have been considered too expensive, participants unqualified to make important decisions, outcomes biased by social structures as well as the existing prejudices of those taking part. In a parallel fashion, other examples of public deliberation including Fishkin’s Deliberative Poll and the public dialogues championed by Sciencewise face the same critiques. Put simply: why should we not just let the experts do what they do best?

As the week progressed I was assigned to a trial, listened to the evidence, and eventually entered the deliberation phase. My initial scepticism lifted. Sitting at a table as a participant rather than as a facilitator was a new experience for me. I had earlier wondered whether a balanced discussion could take place without descending into chaos in the absence of ground rules, a tight agenda, and an external mediator – but my concerns were unwarranted. A foreman was decided upon before discussions started and was able to steer the conversation fairly, affording all members of the jury the time to share their thoughts and reach an independent decision. Participants were bound by the weight of responsibility and sense of moral duty conferred by the oath taken at the beginning of the trial. No individual dominated and the defendant was given a fair hearing. Discussions also helped jurors to absorb evidence; when listening to high volumes of information twelve heads are better than one. Likewise, individual observations and perspectives helped the group as a whole gain an objective view of the case in order to reach a consensus either unanimously or through a majority verdict.

My experiences are supported by wider evidence. A 2010 study for the Ministry of Justice found that juries are a fair, effective and efficient way of trying defendants. It found 89% of juries reach a verdict, and only 0.6% of juries are discharged for not coming to a decision. Research from America has also demonstrated that in around 80% of criminal cases jurors and judges will reach the same decision (Kalven & Zeisel 1966). Additional research suggests that after a trial jurors increase their participation in civic life, including voting more frequently and engaging in community issues.

Similar arguments support the more frequent use of public deliberations in society more widely, particularly in providing the general public with the opportunity to interrogate policy decisions otherwise protected by the fortified bunker of Westminster. Not only is this in line with the government’s open policy-making agenda outlined in the 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan – the wider use of such participatory events could be the catalyst to revive public engagement in the political process, giving citizens the platform to influence decision making outside the ritual of voting on election day.

Overall my experience of being a juror demonstrated the value and potential of giving members of the public a chance to sit together and deliberate on issues of importance. Integrating deliberative methods more widely in state systems could produce similar fair, effective, and efficient results, and prove to members of the public that their views DO matter.

For now the jury is out.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stratified Medicine: a public dialogue


Stratified medicine is an approach to healthcare based on identifying before treatment how likely a therapy is to be successful. This allows the right treatment to be given to the right patient at the right time. The Technology Strategy Board (now known as Innovate UK) sees stratified medicine as a leading area of healthcare research with the potential to provide significant benefits to patients and effect strategic shifts in the way healthcare is delivered. That the public understands these shifts is vital to ensure that new techniques are used in the best interests of all involved. The Technology Strategy Board, with Sciencewise, asked OPM Group to run a public dialogue programme which gave people the chance to have their say on these new techniques feeding directly in to the development of stratified medicine in the UK.

What we did

OPM organised 19 workshops involving about 180 people: a mix of members of the public with no specific knowledge of stratified medicine, young people, and patients and medical students. The workshops were delivered in various forms, from 5 patients coming together for an evening in November, to 50 stakeholders at a whole day summit in January. We used a range of tools to explore the science, the social issues and the implications for patient care. These tools included animation, video testimonies, hypothetical scenarios and discussion activities. The final event in this project was a workshop for stakeholders involved in the development of stratified medicine, designed to consider the implications of our findings for the development of stratified medicine. The workshops covered the following issues:

The dialogue sought to identify the human issues that are raised by stratified medicine and what these will mean for how it is delivered, for the individuals who will benefit from it, for their families, and for those for whom there will not be immediate benefits.


The final report presented our findings as well as the future challenges we identified for stratified medicine. By presenting these findings at a deliberative workshop with stakeholders involved in delivering stratified medicine we increased the reach of the findings, and supported the Technology Strategy Board’s ongoing aim to develop knowledge sharing. The keys findings from the workshops were:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Leap Seconds: A Public Dialogue

In 2015 the world will take a decision about whether we should continue to have an international coordinated time based on the earth’s rotation, or move to rely fully on atomic clocks.  It is not the first time a vote has taken place on the question, but no international agreement has been reached to date. This time the Minister responsible for the UK position, David Willetts, has opted to hold a national public dialogue with stakeholders and the general public to debate the issues in depth. The National Measurement Office (now the National Measurement and Regulation Office), in conjunction with Sciencewise, has commissioned OPM Group and RK Partnership to run this dialogue. The discussions will start on April 30, with a National Stakeholder Workshop in London and the launch of an online discussion. Public workshops will begin at the end of May and be held throughout June in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh. A National Summit will bring all the findings from the dialogues together in July.

This is a tricky topic for public debate since it covers some fairly technical issues. Time is measured very precisely by the average of several hundred atomic clocks, with a Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) transmitted by radio signal. The problem with precisely measuring time in this way, is that it is not directly in sync with the earth’s rotation, which is not uniform and is slowing very slightly. This means we have two methods of telling time which have a very slight discrepancy between each other. To keep them in synch, a ‘leap second’ is occasionally added to atomic time to bring it in line with solar time.

At least five months notice is given before adding a leap second. However, they can still cause computer glitches. Websites have previously crashed when leap seconds are added. Whilst there have never been any recorded problems,  there are also concerns the time stamping of financial transactions could be open to fraudulent practices and civil and military navigational systems could encounter difficulties. Hence, some organisations and countries would like to stop adding leap seconds to atomic time.

The dialogues will bring together stakeholders and the public to discuss these issues. The differences between atomic time and solar time are small: at the end of the century they would differ by two minutes if we stopped adding leap seconds. It may be the general public thinks this is such a small difference they would not notice, let alone care if we moved to atomic time. Alternatively, there could be public frustration if governments decided, without seeking views, to choose a method of measuring time which has only existed for the last half a century over one which has been in existence for thousands of years. Indeed, time being related to earth’s rotation and the solar system might have particular importance to people of certain faiths or philosophies.

Over the next few months we will be exploring the philosophical and technological dimensions of measuring time with the general public and stakeholders. We will work with stakeholders to identify key issues and make these accessible for public debate. We will run reconvened workshops in all four regions of the UK. The first will help the public understand the problem and different stakeholder perspectives. The second will see if there can be convergence around public and stakeholder views around particular issues. The outcomes will be used to inform the Minister’s position.

Whilst workshop participation will be by invite only, we will have an open discussion board and survey on a dedicated leap seconds website. This will be complemented by pop-up dialogues at specific science events. We will release further details when the dialogue begins.

If you have any further questions about the dialogue, please contact more information on the methodology and the outcome of the dialogue, please see the Leap Seconds UK Public Dialogue case study and Final Report.









Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Patient and public engagement in North West London


The Shaping a Healthier Future programme was launched in January 2012 with a document called the Case for Change. Its scope covered 8 boroughs, 9 hospitals and a population of more than 2 million people. The Case for Change document set out radical proposals for the re-organisation of health care provision across the North West of London. Included in the vision for change was a reorganisation of services on some hospital sites, including proposals to provide more specialist hospitals on fewer sites to treat patients with the most complex illnesses. OPM was commissioned to assist with a large scale consultation on the case for change with NHS staff, local authorities, patients and the public. This involved designing and facilitating a number of events and engagements with the public including deliberative events, events with NHS staff and public meetings.

What we did

During our 6 months of working with the Shaping a Healthier Future Team, both immediately prior and during the consultation period, we delivered:


Through our work we were able to evidence that the Shaping a Healthier Future programme has extensively engaged with the public, patients and stakeholders.  Our work was independently praised by the Consultation Institute which was brought in to evaluate the engagement activities.