Customer story: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), UK

Call For Evidence Process
'screenshot of 'Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), UK
'screenshot of 'Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), UK

Calls for evidence

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is a large, sprawling UK government department with a huge remit that encompasses several sub-bodies and divisions. Its work has a high degree of visibility with policies and consultations frequently making headlines.

Defra runs a range of democratic processes on Citizen Space, including statutory consultations, public land management, and others. One of these processes is calls for evidence.

A call for evidence isn’t a consultation, which tends to be run once there’s a draft policy or decision in place. A call for evidence is much more open: it’s an information-seeking exercise which will then inform the direction and shape of a policy.

Calls for evidence seek information and expertise from people, organisations and stakeholders with direct experience or knowledge of a particular issue. A consultation will usually then be run once said policy has been drafted, although sometimes calls for evidence and consultations occur at the same time.

High-profile, high-traffic

Defra has been running calls for evidence on Citizen Space since 2013. The topics range from huge, broad subjects, such as a call for evidence on the environment and climate change or waste strategies for the UK, to sector-specific ones such as agricultural mortgages and repossessions.

Many, if not most, of Defra’s calls for evidence achieve national and press attention, particularly those on emotive or contentious topics like non-elephant ivory trading, trophy hunting or plastic pollution. Because of this, it’s important that they’re run on a platform that is robust enough to handle high volumes of traffic and spikes in interest due to media coverage.

Citizen Space supports high traffic volumes as well as unlimited response numbers, so customers aren’t charged extra if they get a lot of responses to a survey. It also supports unlimited site admins, so different departments can log in to the system and create their own democratic activities. When you're an organisation as large as Defra this is essential as the workload is too high to be run by a small team.

Keeping it simple

The idea behind a call for evidence is to gather as much expert information from as broad a range of participants as possible. It’s not useful to run a call for evidence via a medium that is exclusionary or inaccessible. Citizen Space’s simple, clean and accessible interface is ideal for reaching different groups of respondents without creating any barriers to participation.

By running calls for evidence on Citizen Space, Defra are ensuring they get the evidence they need to support their ongoing decision-making.

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