Ask Me I Won't Say No How Could I: An Experiment to Encourage Civic Behaviour Among Callers to a Local Authority Contact Centre

Sarah Cotterill, Liz Richardson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    This paper reports on a recent design experiment to investigate effective ways to encourage civic behaviour. The experiment identifies how local authority staff can encourage callers to a contact centre to get involved in neighbourhood environmental activity. The aim was to transform a passive one-way transactional relationship between consumer and provider into a more active two way co-production relationship. Information, encouragement and advice on ways to participate were provided in more effective ways than have traditionally been used. The theoretical framework guiding the research suggests that citizen’s actions are affected by both facilitating conditions (the structure and context in which they operating) and also by their orientations and dispositions. Orientations and dispositions are affected by consequential reasoning, taking into account both individual and collective interests. But they also include moral principles about what is the right thing to do, social norms, perceptions of what is appropriate behaviour, habit and emotional reactions such as passion or anger. In the empirical research we shape the facilitating conditions by changing the way the institution responds to citizens and explore how different types of motivation affect the response to the intervention. We pioneer a new type of evaluation - design experiments - which share some features of action research and of experiments. Design experiments offer social scientists and public managers a new way of researching public policy innovations, providing insights about what works and supplying timely information to decision-makers as an intervention develops. The experimental aspect of the method manipulates an intervention and observes it over an extended time period, usually in one location, until acceptable results emerge. This research project is part of a joint research programme being conducted by the Universities of Manchester and Southampton, 'Rediscovering the Civic and Achieving Better Outcomes in Public Policy'. It is funded by Communities and Local Government, the Economic and Social Research Council and the North West Improvement Network.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationhost publication
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventPublic Administration Committee Conference - York
    Duration: 1 Sep 20083 Sep 2008


    ConferencePublic Administration Committee Conference


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