The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) is a charity which aims to enrich society through ideas and action. Founded in 1754, they have 30,000 fellows and carry out research and events to share ideas, influence policy and encourage collaboration across society.
In 2016, the RSA set up the Citizens Economic Council (CEC) with the aim of demonstrating how citizens could be more effectively engaged in in economic debate through the use of deliberative processes. The council involved 54 citizens selected through a market research agency in order to reflect the diversity of the UK, who participated in deliberative sessions in London, Manchester and Birmingham over the course of 5 days. The ultimate aim of the CEC was to foster engagement in economics and policy-making from citizens, through several objectives and success indicators. Contributors participated in sessions with experts delivering sessions on a range of economic topics, with meetings also including open discussion and voting.
The RSA approached Pro Bono Economics to analyse the programme, available evidence, and draw out key findings related to the impact of the CEC. The volunteer team were tasked with drawing out key learnings from the process to inform its approach carrying out such interventions in future. Volunteers Hernando Bunuan, Jane Delbene, JT Wong, Gordon Eichhorst and Puneet Mehta from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business were matched to this project, and we would like to thank them for their time and expertise.
In parallel, the RSA carried out an internal report on the CEC, launched at an event on the 6th March 2018. Bank of England Chief Economist and PBE co-founder and trustee Andy Haldane was the keynote speaker at this event, who made the announcement that the Bank of England had chosen to implement one of the RSA’s recommendations; “The Bank of England should establish regional Citizens’ Reference Panels”. The RSA’s report, “Building a Public Culture of Economics”, is available to read here.
Pro Bono Economics’ final report is intended for internal use at the RSA. It relies upon data from three sources, including questionnaire responses from council members and interviews with experts. Based on data from the RSA and follow-up data collected during the course of the project, a number of recommendations were made based around the programme design, data collection framework and session content. Follow up meetings aim to enable the RSA to embed the recommendations into its approach to research.
We would like to thank the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for their work on this report.