25 April, 2022

Citizens’ panel helps the switch to low-carbon heating in the UK

In February and March 2022 we recruited 42 participants for the Electricity Futures Citizens' Panel, which is meeting online from March-May to address the question "How can we help people to have low carbon heating, and what will it mean for me and my community?".

The panel has been convened by UK Power Networks which is an organisation that owns and maintains the electricity cables and lines across London, the South East and East of England, and wants to work out the best way to support households to make the switch to low-carbon heating.

Below we briefly describe the details of this recruitment process.

Stage 1

We emailed an invitation to over 3,000 people who live in the areas of the UK served by UK Power Networks to take part in this process. The potential participants were drawn from people on our database who had previously registered an interest in similar processes, because the timing of the event meant that it would be too time consuming to go through a randomised postal invitation process. If this innovative citizens' panel process proves successful then it's possible that we will use randomised postal invitations in the future to support further rounds of the panel with new participants.

Participants in the citizens' panel will receive £210 to thank them for their time.  Invitations were open for one week and at the end of this time 434 people had registered their interest in taking part.

Stage 2

All potential participants had previously shared with us their address, date of birth, gender and ethnicity.

We then used this information as input into a "sortition algorithm"; this is a process of randomly selecting our 42 participants from the pool of 434 people who registered an interest in such a way that we have a representative sample (so, for instance, the age profile of participants is broadly similar to the age profile of the population as a whole). The algorithm that we use is the fairest possible.

In addition to the information about gender, age, ethnicity and address mentioned above, we also used the address of each respondent to hit one further target:

  • Index of multiple deprivation (IMD): We used government statistics that classify how deprived different areas of the country are (with 1 being most deprived and 10 being least deprived). Our sortition algorithm ensured, again, that the IMD profile of the addresses of the participants reflected the IMD profile of the whole of the UK.

Details of the selection process for this event are summarised using the following pie charts:

The way to understand these pie charts is as follows:

  • Column 1 (Target): These pie charts give information about the population as a whole, using various publicly available statistics (for instance via the ONS).
  • Column 2 (Respondents): These pie charts summarise the information that was provided to us by the people who signed up as potential participants. There is some skewing in statistics here compared with our target: for instance, people aged 65+ responded a bit less than their proportion in the UK population. 
  • Column 3 ( Confirmed Selected): These pie charts summarise information about the people who were finally confirmed to participate in the assembly. Notice that, thanks to our use of a sortition algorithm, the pie charts in this column are very similar to the target charts in the first column. As part of our recruitment process all of these people were contacted by telephone to confirm that they were still willing and able to participate, and we used the sortition algorithm to replace anyone who dropped out with others who shared similar characteristics.

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