Considering anonymity in consultation

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During the early stages of a consultation, when a strategy is put in place to determine the direction of the project, it will be necessary to consider whether you will allow people to respond anonymously.

While anonymity has been shown to enable people to put forward their viewpoint without fear of repercussion, it could be argued that anonymous results cannot be verified at the evaluation stage and therefore carry little weight.

Consider the following factors when making the decision:

Arguments in favour

  • Respondents are more likely to express their views without fear of repercussions
  • Breaks down power relations
  • Frees up individual expression
  • Removes bias
  • The argument can be focused on the content of the discussion without prejudice
  • Undermines collaboration

Arguments against

  • A consultation report carries more value if comments can be attributed
  • An individual should be prepared to ‘own’ his / her comments
  • People are more likely to be dishonest when unidentifiable, or to use a forum to praise themselves
  • Individuals may be able to put forward their views on numerous occasions by using different log-ins
  • Anonymous contributions lack demographic data, which can be very valuable in a consultation
  • De-personalises comment

 

Penny Norton

Penny’s book Public Consultation and Community Involvement in Planning: a twenty-first century guide is published by Routledge in June 2017.  Please email Penny to receive notification of its publication.