CASE STUDY: VICTORIAN CITIZENS' JURY ON OBESITY

VicHealth Citizens Jury on Obesity

AN AWARD WINNING PROJECT

In 2015 MosaicLab was engaged to independently design and facilitate discussions and activities for both the online and face to face components of the VicHealth Citizens’ Jury on Obesity.  The process asked 100 everyday Victorians respond to the following remit: ‘We have a problem with obesity. How can we make it easier to eat better?’. 

On 18th October 2016 the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and MosaicLab were presented with the IAP2 Australasia 2016 Core Values Award for Health for the project.  Explore all the winning projects in the IAP2 Core Values Awards Showcase. 


THE CHALLENGE

Obesity is one of the biggest issues facing our state and society at large.  It’s a difficult, contentious and complex topic and despite the ongoing efforts of public health organisations, the obesity crisis continues to worsen. 


VIDEO: Highlights of Victoria's Citizens' Jury on Obesity.

THE PROCESS

In order to identify actions to battle obesity, a consensus-building process was required that would put everyday Victorians in the driver’s seat, mobilise communities and individuals to take action, encourage industry to initiate change and create an enabling environment for stronger government action. 

The newDemocracy Foundation, a leading Australian research institute in democratic innovation, developed a process to give a random sample of citizens a “journey of discovery” about their food choices.


Having the opportunity to hear real, grass-roots thoughts of everyday Victorians through the Citizen’s Jury, rather than the often diluted and top-down information presented in research papers, not only allowed us to provide a valuable new approach to the issue, but also has much greater resonance and cut-through with the very people who need to hear the message the most.
— Grant McArthur, Health Editor, The Herald Sun

Facilitators - VicHealth Citizens' Jury on Obesity

WIDER ENGAGEMENT

The wider Victorian public was involved in the process through a VicHealth-Herald Sun poll which yielded 2580 responses (the largest response to a poll run through the Herald Sun at the time) and a digital campaign inviting the public to #ShowUsYourFridge by sending in a “shelfie”.   Key stakeholders were invited to be involved by providing submissions of evidence and all input collated was considered by the jury, ensuring that everyday citizens were heard. 


VicHealth Obesity jury deliberations
The actual discussion face to face brought practical real life examples of issues that I had only read about.
— Juror

THE CITIZENS JURY

Citizens’ juries push the boundaries of established models of engagement.  Within public health and public policy contexts, this process signals a significant departure from the status quo. 

The jury considered 64 submissions of evidence encompassing a broad range of views.  After six weeks of reviewing and discussing evidence online using a custom designed collaboration platform, the jury selected the experts they would like to hear from in person.

In October 2015, 78 of the 100 selected Victorians came together to consider the additional evidence, consolidate their views and decide on what needed to be done to address the issue. 

A representative steering group comprising key government, industry, public health and community decision makers was also convened by VicHealth to respond to the Jury’s 'asks' (or requests for action). 


TOOLS FOR SUCCESS

The process was designed to ensure that the jury could:

  • Go beyond four-minute opinion polls and media headlines
  • Have access to expertise, time and an independent process to allow them to understand influences which shape how they make decisions in practice
  • Place clear and unambiguous requests in front of decision makers
  • Have an opportunity to change the system in which the problem sits. 

 

VicHealth Citizens Jury deliberations

VicHealth’s leadership in bringing together key representatives from both the private and public sectors to form the Steering Committee, which in turn oversaw a thorough community engagement process, ensured a diverse and robust conversation was held by citizens representing the community.
— Steering Group member

OUTCOMES 

VicHealth’s response
The jury presented 20 ‘asks’ (or requests for action) to a steering group comprising of key government, industry, public health and community decision makers and convened by VicHealth.    

The steering group publicly responded to the jury’s ‘asks’ in December 2015 (view the response here) and a number of actions have been progressed by VicHealth in line with the commitments made in the Steering Group’s response.  

Commitments actioned include: 
•    Meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary for Health
•    Integrating healthy eating messages into social marketing campaigns
•    Discussing the jury’s ‘asks’ in relation to healthy eating in schools with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. 

IN THE MEDIA

'Can a citizens' jury transform obesity policy?'

Crikey.com - 17 April 2015

'Victorians unite to battle obesity crisis with citizens' jury'

The Herald Sun - 18 September 2015

'Citizen jury proposes solutions to fight obesity in Victoria'

International Business Times - 19 October 2015

Highlighting the issue

There has been broad media coverage touching on issues discussed by the jury such as a ‘Sugar Tax’ and VicHealth and public health advocates have had the opportunity refer to the jury’s relevant supporting ask.  

External action

A range of other actions are being progressed by other agencies.  For example, the Victorian Government recently mandated that kilojoule information be on fast food menus in line with an ‘ask’ presented by the jury.

Juror experience

Over half (57%) of jurors indicated they were very likely to take personal action to address obesity as a result of being involved in the jury process.   Just under two thirds of participants reported that if they heard a citizens’ jury process was commissioned by another government department, that they would very much trust what it said. 

VicHealth Obesity sugar in drinks

LEARNINGS

Some of the key learnings that MosaicLab gained from this project were: 

  • A lengthy online process requires a lot of effort to keep people motivated. While we had a core group of active members, we also had some people who were watching more than participating. 
  • Don’t use an untried platform for a large project - the platform was ‘built’ as we went along, creating a number of challenges.  It wasn't able to be used on mobile devices and couldn't provide reporting statistics on juror activity.
  • As this was a statewide jury, it was decided that face to face deliberations would be held over two days over one weekend. While this is sensible in terms of managing the travel and accommodation costs it had the down side on jurors not having reflection time between jury days. 

Our response to these problems was to insert three webinars into the process.  This allowed us to overcome some of these challenges and connect with jurors.  In subsequent juries with an online component we now hold a 'Meet and Greet'event to enable jurors to get to know each other before they meet in an online environment. 


In an environment where expertise and knowledge traditionally sits with academics, committing to a process that put everyday citizens in the driver’s seat, invited different perspectives and limited and censoring represented a truly disruptive innovation.
— Kimbra White, Facilitator


NEXT STEPS 

The progress of the jury’s ‘asks’ will continue to be monitored by VicHealth and MosaicLab and members of the steering group will continue to work with policymakers, public health and consumer advocates, and industry to promote Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity.

VicHealth Citizens' Jury on obesity

Photos source: VicHealth