The Chief Research Officer in consultancy firms

It is not unusual to hear that the university and consultancy firms go opposite ways: for the former, spending too much time in knowledge transfer has huge costs of opportunity, for it is time not invested on publishing in impact scientific journals; for the latter, most research just cannot be easily included in the client’s bill.

What follows is just a simple exercise on how to embed research in consultancy, so that it does not become a mere overhead but an activity that has a direct measurable impact on the value chain. The scheme presents to sets (columns) of tasks that a chief research officer —or a research office, intelligence unit or knowledge management team, etc.— can perform within a consultancy firm. On the left, we have drawn the tasks that impact the internal client and thus improve others’ activities; on the right, we have drawn the tasks that can by directly put in the market as a product or a service.

Scheme depicting the Chief Research Officer in consultancy firms
The Chief Research Officer in consultancy firms

Activities have been grouped in five (more or less chronological) stages:

  • Research: which stands for more basic or less applied research, and consisting in gathering information, building theoretical models and providing strategic advice to the firm. On a more public branch, it can consist on creating measuring devices such as indices or custom measurements, sometimes commercialised as ad-hoc audits.
  • Branding: part of research is diffusion. Conveniently tailored, it can contribute to strengthen the power of a brand, contribute to create a top-of-mind brand or even, by lobbying and media placing, to have an impact in the public agenda.
  • Consulting: the research office can work with the consulting team in some projects (especially at the first and last stages of the project) to improve its quality. Mind the (*) in consulting, meaning that the research office should not work as a consulting team: research and analysis does require some distance from the research object and, most important, different (slower) tempos than regular consulting activities have.
  • Training: a research office that learns should teach, both to other departments of the firm or directly as a service to the clients. Providing policy advice or openly publishing position and policy papers is another way to transfer knowledge to specific clients or openly to society.
  • Innovation: closing the virtuous circle of research, modelling and improving methodologies is a way to capitalise the investment that the firm made in a research office, thus making it more efficient and effective.

Decidim.index. Juan Romero: managing conflict to improve the democratic process

Notes from the Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation, organized by and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19 January 2018. More notes on this event: decidim-index.

Juan Romero: managing conflict to improve the democratic process

The democratic process is not only a model for governance, but a model for living together.

How do we manage conflict in democratic processes? Define, make explicit, mediate and measure. There are two different issues in conflicts: the dimensions of the conflict and the actors of the conflict.

Measuring the debate can be difficult and especially difficult to manage if we had not prepared it in advance. Technologies and methodologies can help to structure deliberations. Argument mapping can be very useful to achieve such structuration and thus improve deliberation and the whole democratic process.

Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation (2018)

Decidim.index. Miriam Sol & Carla Cordoncilo: Systems of indicators of quality

Notes from the Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation, organized by and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19 January 2018. More notes on this event: decidim-index.

Miriam Sol & Carla Cordoncilo: evaluation system for the programme of active democracy

The system was designed after the logical framework approach. A matrix of indicators (simple and complex indicators) was created and then came the design of the sources of verification. Finally, the evaluation system was created.

Active democracy includes:

  • Citizen initiatives.
  • Participatory processes.
  • Citizen consultations.
  • Participation bodies.

In this project the focus was put on participatory processes.

Main dimensions: accessibility, diversity, plurality, traceability, transparency, operations.

These aspects should not be measured outside of their context, as most of them are very sensitive to it. Thus, quality or achievement of specific thresholds in indicators should be measured in relationship with environmental values. E.g. diversity in participation has different meanings in neighbourhoods that have a multicultural social tissue or in neighbourhoods that are socially or culturally more homogeneous. Less diversity in the latter is to be expected, while low diversity in the former should be considered as a failure.

Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation (2018)

Decidim.index. Sofia de Roa: Systems of indicators of quality

Notes from the Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation, organized by and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19 January 2018. More notes on this event: decidim-index.

Sofia de Roa: Systems of indicators of quality

The point of departure to design a system of indicators for democratic quality is transparency.

Two types of organiations in relationship to transparency:

180º organization:

  • What for transparency: to disclose information from the past.
  • Why transparency: external motivation: to look nice in transparency indices and gain recognition.
  • What do we make transparent: operative aspects related to production, such as people, economy, structure and processes.
  • How do we become transparent: on their own, with their own tools.

360º organization:

  • What for transparency: to disclose commitments and measure improvements.
  • Why transparency: intrinsic motivation: responsibility, work well done, the common good.
  • What do we make transparent: all the value chain, including vision and mission, values, strategies, etc.
  • How do we become transparent: in a participatory way, with all stakeholders.

How to operationalize concepts such as diversity, democratic quality, gender balance, social autonomy, etc.?

Systems of quality indicators: choose, improve, etc.

Decidim.index: indices for the democratic quality of online participation (2018)

OP@LL Conference (VII): Case Studies 3

Notes from the OP@LL Conference: Online participation on the local level – a comparative perspective, organized by Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy and held in Dússeldorf, Germany, on 13-15 December 2017. More notes on this event: opll.

Case Studies 3

Anna Przybylska | University of Warsaw (Poland)
ICT solutions for public consultations: Methodology and design of inDialogue

Abstract: The aim of the presentation is to reflect on the design of the inDialogue software that has been developed to intervene in the organization of public consultation processes in local governments. The design has been informed by the results of empirical studies. In those studies, we evaluated the practice of public consultations in Poland refereeing to the norms constitutive for the model of deliberative consultations. The inDialogue software is expected to respond to the problems revealed during the evaluation. It helps to convey the knowledge about the methodology of public consultations and supports the teamwork for their better organization in the city hall. It facilitates planning of public consultations which can be conducted through face-to-face meetings and paper questionnaires as well as through online text or voice meetings and electronic questionnaires. The presentation starts with the overview of some theoretical assumptions and associated research findings relevant to the institutionalization of deliberation in public consultations. Following part analyses empirical data collected from the Polish local governments. In this background I will discuss tools and procedures of inDialogue software.

Three areas of tension:

  • When the institutions of representative and participatory democracy are being integrated.
  • Between the ideal of deliberation and the results of its implementation.
  • When attempting to create a consolidated venue for public dialogue in a world of dispersed communication channels.

How are we going to attract people to use these tools? Efficacy of participation is the most powerful incentive.

inDialogue is a participation software that has many functions. Not only does it deal with participation, but also planning, open government, etc. The software also features different roles/approaches, like the clerk’s interface with several actions that the leader of a participation initiative can undertake. Same for citizens, that have their own interface and the tasks that they can perform.

Factors for the absorbtion of innovation:

  • Establishing partnerships: quadruple-helix model where several institutions have a different complementary role.
  • Research and action.
  • Evaluation and software amendments
  • An umbrella or a network?
  • Public sphere and scaling-up.
  • Distribution roles.

José L Martí | Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona (Spain)
Crowdlaw and the internal/external dimension of online local participation

Abstract: One of the new paradigms that has been advocated to understand the new possibilities of local participation enhanced by the new technologies is the so-called crowdlaw, as a particular subtype of Open Government. Under this approach, ordinary citizens can be deeply involved in different stages of the legal cycle and through a variety of forms of participation. They can participate in information pooling, in deliberation, or in decision-making properly. And they can contribute in such a variety of forms to stages like public diagnostic, law and policy-making, law and policy enforcement, law and policy adjudication, law and policy control, and law and policy revision. This is seen by some as one of the most important innovations to come in the next years to improve government at different levels, and also at the local one. But one of the effects of adopting this new approach is that the boundaries between internal and external participation (the participation of local citizens or the participation of citizens from other towns, regions or states, is importantly blurred. In other words, crowdlaw is very good in enhancing both the internal and the external dimensions of local participation (i.e., citizens from other places, including other states may be involved in different ways in the local participation of our city and contribute largely to it. This may have crucial effects to the way we conceive local politics. This paper explores all these effects and implications, focusing particularly in the way in which public local participation should be conceived in this new scenario, and advances a new vision of how local politics, and particularly public local deliberation may scale up to extralocal (potentially global) politics.

The demos problem: the traditional response to the question on whether one should be able to participate in a participatory process or a decision-making process in one’s own city/region/state is that yes, one should be able to participate. What if one is not formally recognized as a citizen in a given city? What if I have interests (relatives, friends, etc.) in other cities? Are they “my” city too?

e-Democracy is transforming the traditional ways to approach such demos problem in a way that brings us necessarily to connect local democracy with global democracy. e-Democracy is deterritorializing politics, which were, almost by definition, always bound to a territory.

Why participatory democracy?

  • It empowers people.
  • It strengthens full inclusion.
  • It improves the quality of decision-making.

But we must have an idea of who should be empowered, whose voices should be heard, what options should be put on the table.

  • Territorially-defined demos: which refers to a formal status, which in turn is based on residence.
  • Functionally-defined demos: depending on the substantive issue.

And there even is yet another principle: the all-affected principle: all those who are potentially affected by the decision should be.

The digital revolution is making the territory less and less important which, combined with globalization, makes the demos problem one of the most important now in participation. But this is where deliberation —not voting— gains a lot of meaning.

OP@LL Conference (VI): Evaluation of Online-Participation

Notes from the OP@LL Conference: Online participation on the local level – a comparative perspective, organized by Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy and held in Dússeldorf, Germany, on 13-15 December 2017. More notes on this event: opll.

Evaluation of Online-Participation

Norbert Kersting | Universität Münster (Germany)
Monitoring and Evaluation of E-Participation

Abstract: Monitoring and evaluation Instruments of are meant to enhance the quality of policy implementation. It is obvious that in numerous cases this monitoring and evaluation of online and office participation does not exist or is not applied by external actors. In the participatory instruments of the invented space, monitoring and evaluation is often ignored, there is no time or there is no funding to implement it thoroughly. The paper refers to the long history of participatory research. It shows that there are numerous participatory methods, but only a few concepts of evaluation. It criticizes theoretical concepts leading to indicators such as the Arnstein ladder of Participation, political action studies, civic engagement and the theoretical and historical blindness of newer instruments. Finally, it argues that categories and concepts do not differ in research on online and offline participation-but the theoretical foundations of political participation do.

How do we assess online participation? Is it possible to assess it with the same tools that are used to assess offline/traditional participation?

Acknowledged crisis of representative democracy: lack of responsiveness and accountability, post-parliamentarism, post-democracy, against elections, against democracy…

Jason Brennan states that we have trolls (they do not like anything, they are hooligans), hobbits (they actually do not care) and all the people in between, most of them cynics.

In many countries in Europe there have been local government reforms in Europe, some of them including more participatory processes like direct democracy at the local level.

Participatory instruments. Evaluation 1. Criteria:

  • Participation: openness and equality
  • Rationality/transparency.
  • Control, responsiveness.
  • Efficiency.

Participatory instruments. Evaluation 2. Purposes

  • Brainstorming: sharing knowledge and ideas, capacity-building
  • Planning: problem-solving, innovation, strategy or action plan, decision-making.
  • Networking: building relationship, personal/leader development.
  • Conflict resolution: dealing with conflict, generating awareness, sharing vision.

The formal part is also important: can we compare voting with demonstrations? Should we? With what instruments?


Q: what could be done to do more and better evaluations of participatory processes? Kersting: benchmark good cases, have processes accepted in as many governments as possible, create standards, etc.

Ismael Peña-López: maybe, from a rational-choice approach it is true that “politicians do not assess” participation. But from a post-marxist approach, taking into account the theories from Hannah Arendt or Antonio Gramsci, yes politicians plan participatory processes but not for the reasons to achieve “real impact” but to control the relate and a way of assessing it would just simply be winning the elections, or placing a specific topic on the public agenda and being hegemonic in this discourse.

Maria A. Wimmer | Universität Koblenz
Evaluation of e-Participation Initiatives

There are a number of evaluation frameworks, with similarities and differences.

The MOMENTUM evaluation approach has:

  • What to evaluate. Assets to be assessed: tools, processes, topics, policies.
  • How to evaluate. Evaluation criteria: usability; appropriateness, interest, policies met).
  • Main target of evaluation and impact towards target groups.
  • Efficiency: system quality, information quality, service quality.
  • Efficacy: information, communication, decision, expectations.
  • Effectiveness: what the current situation is and what the future situation looks like to be.