Big Climate Conversation: report of findings

A summary of findings from the Big Climate Conversation, a public engagement programme about climate change held over six months across Scotland.

Section 2: The Engagement Process

The different types of conversations

The Big Climate Conversation was deliberately designed with the aim of enabling participation from everyone who wanted to have their say. The objective was to gather voices from a wide range of locations and backgrounds, as well as from people with varying levels of engagement with the issue of climate change. This objective guided the design of a programme of different types of public engagement activities, which comprised a mix of face-to-face and online engagement, as well as both government-organised and community-organised events.

The programme contained the following core strands:

  • 15 Facilitated workshops
  • 110 community-led conversations
  • A digital conversation

1) Facilitated Workshops (Jul - Nov 2019)

The Big Climate Conversation began with a series of workshops, organised and facilitated by a non-governmental organisation. Following a competitive procurement process, the Scottish environmental charity, Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) was appointed to deliver these workshops.

KSB ran three types of workshops in 14 different locations around Scotland (see Figure 1):

i. 9 x large, 'open-audience workshops'. Attendance was open to any individual who was interested in participating.

ii. 1 x 'youth workshop'. Attendance was restricted to participants aged 11 – 26 years old to ensure that the voices of young people were represented.

iii. 5 x focussed 'targeted-audience workshops'. Attendance was by invitation only to enable participants with lower pre-existing engagement in climate change conversations to be intentionally recruited via a screening questionnaire.

With the exception of the youth event, all workshops were held from 17:30 to 19:30 on weekday evenings to enable maximum participation. The youth event was held from 13:00 to 15:00 during school summer holidays. Refreshments were provided at all workshops.

Figure 1: Map of facilitated workshops

Figure 1: Map of facilitated workshops

Workshop Format

All three types of workshop followed a very similar format. Each event was two hours long and was run as a guided conversation between participants, led by a facilitator positioned at the front of the room. Participants were asked to record their views, either by writing in a specially-designed workshop booklet or by using a web-based tool via their mobile phones ( Full details of the workshop agenda and format, including the discussion topics and activities used, are presented in the Technical Annex accompanying this report.

The content of the workshops was slightly adjusted in response to participant feedback from the first event in Glasgow. Participants found there to be too much emphasis throughout the workshop on individual behaviour change as a solution to tackling climate change. Therefore, the discussion topics and questions were reframed in future workshops to encourage participants to consider societal change more broadly, including actions by government and business as well as individuals and communities.

The youth event followed the same basic structure as the other events, addressing the same overarching questions. However, this event was led by a facilitator with specific experience of working with young people. She made minor adjustments to the language to ensure that discussion topics were appropriate for a younger audience.

Modifications were also made for the targeted-audience workshops to ensure the content was appropriate for an audience with little or no prior knowledge of climate change. In addition, the final activity, a 'readiness ruler' where participants were asked to determine what would help them be more ready for each change, was omitted to allow more time to discuss challenges to societal changes and how these challenges could be overcome.

Recruitment of participants

Each of the three types of workshop were aimed at a different audience and involved a different recruitment procedure.

i) Open-audience workshops (July – September)

These events were designed to allow members of the public to participate in a face-to-face workshop. It enabled individuals who were interested in being part of The Big Climate Conversation with a chance to engage directly with others through a facilitated discussion event. The events were widely advertised and promoted on our various social media pages (@ScotGovClimate) and between 75 and 135 tickets were available for each event (depending on the venue capacity). Anyone was welcome to register to attend online (via Eventbrite) and attendance was free of charge.

ii) Youth workshop (24th July)

This event was promoted through a range of local and national youth organisations. This workshop was also promoted on social media platforms with the specification that it was a "youth-focused group targeted at participants aged 11 – 26". The Eventbrite registration was also organised in a way that prevented registration by individuals older than 26 to make sure that all available spaces were reserved for younger participants.

iii) Targeted-audience workshops (September – November)

The targeted-audience workshops were organised with the specific aim of encouraging participation from people with limited prior engagement in conversations about climate change. Events were held in five locations: Dundee, Oban, Galashiels, Glasgow, and Inverurie and participants were purposively recruited through a two-stage process:

  • Stage 1: Widespread advertising in the area via social media, posters in places of high footfall and adverts in the local press. People who were interested to attend were invited to register their interest online which involved completing a short screening questionnaire. (See Technical Annex for screening questions used).
  • Stage 2: Selection of participants from the pool of those who had registered. The screening questions were used to identify individuals who appeared to be least engaged in climate change while maintaining demographic diversity (particularly with respect to gender and level of education).

These workshops were designed to be smaller than the open-audience events to enable closer facilitation and greater guidance on discussion topics. Therefore, a maximum of 25 places were available at each event. Unlike the open-audience workshops, participants were offered a £25 cash incentive to attend, which meant that there were very few no-shows on the day.

2) Community-Led Conversations (Aug - Nov 2019)

The community-led conversations strand of The Big Climate Conversation was designed to enable participation from those people who had not been able to attend a facilitated workshop. The aim was to encourage and assist communities to host their own Big Climate Conversations and submit their views directly to the Scottish Government via a feedback form. The Scottish Government provided support for these community-led conversation events in two ways:

1. How-To Guide

A 'How-To Guide' was developed to lead participants through the series of discussion topics and questions used in the facilitated workshops. The guide was downloadable from the Scottish Government website and also available on the Impact Funding Partners webpage. Between the two locations, the guide was accessed over 800 times.

To reduce the burden on participants and encourage more communities to take part, the feedback form was much simpler and shorter than the data collection form used at the facilitated workshops. Each group was asked to submit a single form that reflected the collective findings and opinions of the entire group, rather than individual feedback forms for each participant.

2. A Grant Fund

Administered by Impact Funding Partners, up to £300 was available to community groups to cover the costs of organising and hosting a Big Climate Conversation. Each community group could apply to run up to two conversations. The fund was open for applications from 8 August until 31 October 2019. In total, Scottish Government provided £17,770.22 in funding for 71 conversations led by 61 different community groups.[4]

In total, 110 feedback forms were received from 99 community groups that held funded or unfunded events across Scotland, with at least one event taking place in over 80% of Scottish local authorities (26 out of 32), from the Scottish Borders to the Shetland Islands, Aberdeenshire to Eilean Siar (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Map of community-led conversations

Figure 2: Map of community-led conversations

3) Digital Conversation (22 August)

The final strand of the public engagement programme for The Big Climate Conversation was the digital conversation. Hosting a conversation online was an important way to ensure that individuals who were unable to take part in a workshop or a community event were still able to have their voices heard.

The digital conversation took place on the Scottish Government's Climate Change Twitter page (@ScotGovClimate) between 12:30 – 14:30 on 22 August. The questions mimicked those used in the facilitated workshops and were posed through a combination of tweet text and images overlaid with text. Participants were encouraged to engage with the Twitter questions either by replying directly to the post or by tweeting their opinions using the hashtag '#BigClimateConversation'. In total, 82 responses were received during this digital conversation. The hashtag was live for the duration of The Big Climate Conversation public engagement series, which enabled people to share their views before and after the events.

Analysis of responses

The different strands of activity allowed participants to submit responses through a variety of channels. Whilst the central questions asked of participants in each strand of The Big Climate Conversation were similar, the format in which responses were submitted were quite different.

Keep Scotland Beautiful analysed the data collected from the facilitated conversations, including the youth workshop and the targeted-audience workshops. Facilitator notes from each of the five targeted-audience workshops were analysed and compared with the written responses to identify any additional themes that had not been identified in the Slido and booklet data. The format of the feedback forms from the community-led conversations did not mirror those used in the facilitated workshop and these were therefore coded separately. These findings, and the responses received through Twitter, were then compared and combined with the findings from the workshops.

Across the various different strands of activity, The Big Climate Conversation has engaged a large number of individuals and communities all across Scotland. The findings presented in this report can therefore help us to better understand the opinions and feelings of the wider Scottish public. It is important to stress, however, that these findings reflect only the perspectives of the individuals, communities and organisations that took part in The Big Climate Conversation. As participants were not selected to be representative of the Scottish population, the findings should not be considered as representative of national opinion.



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