Contribution to decision-making
At the end of the participation in the PVE (Participation Value Evaluation), residents are always asked if they think that the PVE provides relevant information for the decision-making process. The majority of participants who participated in previous experiments believe that a PVE provides relevant information. The majority of participants believe that the results of the PVE should play a modest role in the decision-making process. Only a small number of participants think that the results of a PVE should play a decisive role in the final political assessment. A large group of the participants believe that policy makers should base their decisions on opinions of experts, the preferences of 'ordinary' citizens and their own judgment. A statement by a participant in the PVE for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management describes:
“I think it's a good idea to do this more often, however I do hope that relevant people (in terms of education or job) are asked to complete this. Thus, making a good combination."
The essence of a PVE
The essence of a PVE is that participants can see a restriction in an (online) experiment and a number of possible policy options, including the effects of the options. Participants are asked, for example, to advise a government or an other authority on how to spend a limited budget on different policy options. In the PVE for the Amsterdam Transport Region, residents had to advise the Amsterdam Transport Region on how to spend a budget of 100 million euros. Respondents could spend this amount on 16 transport-related projects that together cost around 400 million euros. They were shown all characteristics / effects of each option they could choose (how much travel time gain does it yield, what is the effect on road safety and what is the effect on noise pollution?). Specifically, respondents were asked to advise the Amsterdam Transport Region on which projects the Transport Region should implement within the 100 million euro budget. A second kind of restriction in a PVE is that residents are asked to advise the government (or another authority) on the decision between different options to achieve a certain objective. In the PVE about the heat transition of the municipality of Utrecht, the municipality sets the goal that 40,000 homes must be removed from natural gas by 2030. There are different approaches for achieving this goal and residents are asked which approach they would recommend. They receive information about the characteristics of the approaches which they can choose from (including CO2 reduction, freedom of choice, nuisance in the home, own investment costs).
What kind of information does a PVE provide?
A PVE gives four types of information. Firstly, it gives descriptive information about the amount of times a policy option has been chosen by a participant. In the PVE for the Amsterdam Transport Region for example, it was noticeable that 12 of the 16 projects were chosen very often. Secondly, the economic model, which analyses the choices made by respondents, calculates how residents rate the characteristics of the projects. So, with the PVE for the Amsterdam Transport Region, it was possible to calculate how strongly residents value travel time gains compared to road safety. And as for the PVE for the heat transition of the municipality of Utrecht, it was possible to discover what people in Utrecht are willing to pay for more freedom of choices and higher CO2 reduction. Thirdly, the economic model calculates the optimal portfolio of policy options in terms of social value. Which combination of transport options can the Transport Region best finance if it wants to create the greatest possible social value? Which approach for removing 40.000 homes in Utrecht from natural gas yields the greatest social value? The fourth type of information is the qualitative motivation of respondents for the decisions they have made in the PVE. A major advantage of this qualitative data is that arguments in favour and against a certain project can appear prior to the light than to officials and researchers. An example project is the PVE Subway Tunneling, recently carried out by the Amsterdam Transport Region. Participants who had selected this project gave an argument to substantiate their decision, which was not yet known to researchers. The biggest problem that the project had to solve was the closed railway barriers for minutes due to too busy railway schedules, while school-aged children had to cross the railway for school. Schoolchildren want to be at school on time and therefore take great risks by crossing the railway at the Guisweg. Because a large group of respondents supported their decisions for the project with this argument , researchers became aware of a problem they had to solve with the project. In short, a PVE can provide new local information which can lead to a clearer problem analysis.
Contribute to a decision-making process
A PVE can contribute to a decision-making process in various ways. Firstly, a PVE provides relevant information that can be used to support and substantiate a decision. Secondly, a PVE can provide useful input for a social dialogue with various stakeholders. Insight into the preferences of a large group of citizens can give direction to a stakeholder discussion. A PVE can be used in various ways to facilitate and structure citizen participation. For example, a PVE can lead to more support for the decision, because a large group of citizens is seriously involved in the decision-making. A large group of citizens is given the opportunity to make their voices heard about strategic choices made by the government (or another authority). In addition, a PVE can be used to raise citizens' awareness of the tasks that the government stands for, the decisions that must be made and the pros and cons of the various options. Citizens may also become more aware of the fact that the government must make decisions in a situation of scarcity (if one project continues, will means that the other project cannot continue). By taking part in a PVE, policy decisions become tangible for citizens and the transparency of government choices increases. Click here to read more about how PVE can be used as an instrument to facilitate and structure citizen participation.