The rise of deliberative and collaborative research: Agency and client joint session

Room 3 | 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm | Thursday, May 4, 2023

The water sector struggles to connect with consumers on complex issues. However, Relish and Southern Water have achieved considerable success on this in recent times. Their innovative, deliberative and collaborative approach has ensured customers have been at the heart of decision-making for an investment program for hundreds of millions of pounds. Hampshire faces water shortages and this program will keeping taps and rivers flowing through dry weather and drought.

Relish and Southern Water worked hard to understand the issues behind customers not recognizing the immediacy or scale of the challenges relating to potential water shortfall. The 18-month long research program was deliberative and involved engaging and educating customers on many of the complexities of water resource management and technologies. By bringing together perspectives from customers, experts, regulatory bodies and even potential objectors to some of the plans, they were able to challenge long-standing water sector thinking and help make the case for change and investment.

The longitudinal qualitative research approach involved multiple methodologies – online panel activities, focus groups, in-depth interviews, customer engagement sessions to name a few – through this work stream, customers got to grips with technical topics, enabling Relish to deliver valuable customer-led insights to senior Southern Water teams. Engagement across the organization was strong, with board level and CEO involvement at various stages. The output has challenged some of the wider water sector thinking, including a change in terminology from ‘water re-use’ to ‘water recycling’ to fit more familiar consumer vernacular.

This project has informed future plans, public consultations, and opened up new avenues for discussion and debate in the sector. Gemma Baldwin and Nick Eves will take you on the journey through the collaborative principles that unlocked customer perspectives on water, and facilitate a Q&A session in which you can participate and learn even more.

Key takeaways:

The value of a deliberative process, building up and working with more informed consumers and how to do this well.

The value of unlocking broader learnings around context and culture that play a key role in how customers think and behave.

How to embed this within a business to ensure customer voice is at the heart of all decisions.

Consumers Joint Presentation Methodologies


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