CASE STUDY: BALANCING PRICING AND FAIRNESS FOR ALL

 

REMIT

We need to find a balance between price and service which is fair for everyone. How should we do this?


 

SNAPSHOT

  • Process: Yarra Valley Water Citizens’ Jury (deliberative process)

  • MosaicLab’s role: Design and facilitation of stakeholder briefings and deliberative engagement process

  • Client: Yarra Valley Water (YVW)

  • Jury Selection and management: newDemocracy Foundation (nDF)

  • Timeframe: February 2017 – June 2017, 5 days of jury deliberations

  • Participants: 24,000+ wider engagement participants prior to deliberation, 35 jurors

  • Outputs: 10 recommendations

 

I think that its very progressive on the part of Yarra Valley Water to include their customers in such big decision making processes … it’s quite an important thing for the community to have a voice and it was a privilege to be able to do that.
— Natalie, Juror.

 
Yarra Valley Water Price Submission - Citizens' Jury - Deliberative engagement
 

I’ve learnt about how innovative and receptive Yarra Valley Water is in terms of these sort of ideas and working with the community – I’ve been really impressed by their attitudes to the process and corporate citizenship in general.
— Kristin - Juror

 

OVERVIEW

From April-July 2017, 35 randomly selected, everyday citizens came together to help Yarra Valley Water (YVW) shape future services and prices. The jury, which was independently selected and overseen by the nDF, was representative of Yarra Valley Water’s diverse customer base. 

The deliberations followed an extensive period of research and engagement which saw more than 24,000 customers engage in conversations with Yarra Valley Water. 

The jury deliberated for more than 40 hours over five days across three months to address the remit.  The group:

  • explored insights from customer research and engagement,

  • heard from experts chosen by stakeholders and the jury itself,

  • considered a range of in-depth information inputs and weighed competing viewpoints,

  • reached agreement on the balance between service quality and service price.

During the process, the group had to consider complex options and trade-offs, and challenge both their own assumptions and those of Yarra Valley Water. 

The jury’s recommendations were used in the development of the Yarra Valley Water Price Submission 2018-2023 which was submitted to the Essential Services Commission (ESC). 

 
Case Study: Deliberative Engagement - Yarra Valley Water Citizens' Jury
 

CHALLENGES

Challenges faced in designing this process included:

  • achieving an ‘in depth’ engagement process that captured informed customer inputs while also being representative of a large and diverse customer base across a big region,

  • establishing community confidence in the transparency and independence of the process,

  • high stakes: outputs of the process impacted YVW’s core business and its entire customer base,

  • a complex problem that required consideration of a range of issues, questions and complex (and often technical) inputs,

  • getting a diverse jury – comprising people with conflicting views – to come to majority agreement.

 

There can be a common perception that people just don’t care that much. Ask them a question and show them that you’re really listening and they’ll put in the time to help you find an answer together.
— Iain Walker, Executive Director, newDemocracy Foundation

 

KEYS TO SUCCESS

  • YVW remained flexible – adapting and responding to the group’s questions, feedback and needs.

  • Transparency was a priority: nDF oversaw the process, deliberations were documented in detail (including extensive videography) and YVW openly responded to any concerns raised.

  • Expectations were clear: Roles were defined (jury, YVW, MosaicLab, nDF).

  • Remit was carefully designed to focus jury on the overarching problem that needed to be solved and the dilemma(s) inherent in that problem.

  • Senior decision makers were present and supported the jury throughout the deliberations.

  • All partners strongly committed to a meaningful, professionally designed and facilitated process. 

 

You could see the shifts that had occurred … the jury had started off with a blank canvas but by the time you got to the end of the process you could see they were engaged, they were owning what they were doing and they were treating it very seriously.
— Pat McCafferty, Managing Director, Yarra Valley Water

 
 

OUTCOMES

Yarra Valley Water has committed to pursuing all 10 of the jury’s recommendations.  You can read the jury’s final report here.

Eight of these recommendations have been fully adopted, with some minor variations to the remaining two.  The recommendations have been used to both anchor the organisation’s price submission, and to guide and focus business efforts overall.

The ESC requires that customers are put at the centre of a water business’s decision making, and that price submissions are developed via a process that includes meaningful engagement with customers. The price submission was fast tracked in the ESC’s assessment process – meaning the ESC was able to quickly assess compliance with their guidance and the regulatory order. 

 

We had confidence to stand behind the proposals we were putting forward (to the ESC) because we knew what it was that the community was asking and expecting of us. We were truly putting the community at the centre of everything that we were doing.
— Sue O’Connor, Chair, Yarra Valley Water Board of Directors

 

VIDEO: Yarra Valley Water - Citizens' Jury vox pop wrap up.

 

Focusing on developing principles around fairness was a game changer, allowing the jury to assess its own recommendations.
— Keith Greaves, MosaicLab Facilitator

 
Citizens' Jury - Deliberative Engagement - Facilitators Australia
 

MORE INFORMATION

More information on this process can be found on the Yarra Valley Water Price Review page.  The newDemocracy Foundation has published a summary of the process here.

Photos courtesy Yarra Valley Water.

 

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