Case

PVE on Social Council Schiphol and the Public Information Center

PVE on Social Council Schiphol and the Public Information Center

The Schiphol Regional Airport Council (ORS) is a consultative and advisory body where issues, interests and parties surrounding the development of Schiphol Airport and the surrounding area come together. However, relations within the ORS have been seriously disrupted. It is important to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management that the area surrounding Schiphol continues to be involved in decisions relating to Schiphol. To this end, the Ministry wishes to strengthen the participation and information facilities for residents around Schiphol. This is why the Ministry and the ORS engaged us to generate insights using the PVE method as a basis for further steps.

What did we investigate in this participation process?

There are two organizations that will be responsible for strengthening the participation and information provision around Schiphol: the Social Council Schiphol and the Public Information Center. It is unknown which tasks are most important and should be taken up immediately and which tasks have less priority. The lack of this prioritization makes it difficult to make concrete choices about the design of these organizations. A PVE can provide a solution and direction in such a situation. In the PVE, citizens were asked to prioritize between different possible tasks of these two organizations. For the ministry, it was important that not only residents with a very clear opinion would participate in the consultation, but also the quiet middle. Therefore, we first had the PVE consultation conducted by a representative panel and after we opened the PVE to all residents who wanted to communicate their preferences to the government. In the end, more than 2,500 residents participated. 60% of the participants indicated that they had never given their opinion to the government or to Schiphol before, so these are clearly residents who belong to the quiet middle.

What insights does the PVE consultation yield? 

This PVE shows which tasks of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Social Council and the Public Information Center residents find more or less important. But it also shows what the underlying values and principles are that need to be safeguarded according to the residents. The consultation revealed that it is important to residents that seven values are safeguarded in the design of the Social Council Schiphol and the Public Information Center: 1) Residents can contribute ideas if choices made by the government about Schiphol affect their daily lives; 2) Residents can communicate their ideas to the government, which reduces the chance that the government overlooks good ideas; 3) Residents can check government research about Schiphol. 4) It must be prevented that all attention is paid to the wishes, questions and complaints of a small group of ‘loud residents’. Enough attention must remain for the wishes, questions and complaints of less loud residents; 5) The interests of both residents who experience inconvenience and residents who experience benefits from Schiphol must be represented; 6) Residents must have somewhere to turn if they have questions and complaints and they must be taken seriously; 7) Information about the effects of Schiphol on the local area must be accessible to everyone (i.e. also available in simple language).

Why combine an online consultation with a focus group?

After conducting the PVE, a number of points had emerged that still needed to be explored. To answer these questions and make final decisions, we organized three focus groups. These allowed us to ask targeted, more in-depth questions and allow citizens to engage in discussion with each other. Combining the PVE with a focus group is a powerful combination. Through the consultation, a large and diverse group of citizens are involved. A focus group then helps a smaller group of citizens to elaborate on striking results from the consultation. The focus group showed, among other things, that participants had different opinions about the values “It must be prevented that all attention goes to the wishes, questions and complaints of a small group of ‘loud residents’. Enough attention must remain for the wishes, questions and complaints of less loud residents” and “Both the interests of residents who experience nuisance and those who experience benefits from Schiphol must be represented”. Some participants found these values important and others found them less so. Solutions were also thought of to make the Public Information Center more successful. The advantage of a focus group is that the motivation of citizens can be questioned. This helps the government to make even more convincing choices.

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