By Steven Snell, PhD, Senior XM Research Methodologist, Qualtrics
Building a better world requires striking a balance between global interests and what works in the everyday lives of citizens. Policies do not exist in a vacuum, they have consequences that impact daily life. In order to ensure policy success, government and business decision makers must understand and appeal to the attitudes and experiences of the people they serve.
More than 3,000 opinion leaders from government, business, non-profit, and non-governmental sectors gathered this week in Davos at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting to take up the theme “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” But who counts as a stakeholder and how can their attitudes and experiences be translated into policy?
Who counts as a world stakeholder?
Predictions of “stakeholder capitalism” and “the experience economy” are largely coming to fruition. Governments, businesses, and brands face the reality of a growing set of stakeholders, including customers, employees, and communities, who vote with their feet and wallets and use social media to amplify their voice and to demand better experiences. Put simply, with choices abounding and information plentiful, people can afford to be more selective.
For its part, the World Economic Forum has set forth that businesses have an obligation to serve “all stakeholders – customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders,” but the lofty ideal that businesses serve communities as stakeholders requires that decision makers understand the complex attitudes, policy preferences, and experiences of the citizens that comprise our global community.
Against the background of a growing set of stakeholders who use experience to inform their attitudes, Qualtrics, an experience management company, seeks to enrich the conversations emanating at Davos by adding the voices and lived experiences of 10,501 research participants drawn from 30 countries, accounting for 76% of the world’s population.
Measuring experience around the world
One of the biggest obstacles to incorporating the views of citizen-stakeholders is gaining access to and enumerating their attitudes and experiences. This requires research on a massive scale. In cooperation with the World Economic Forum and our parent company SAP, Qualtrics undertook a large-scale research study to understand how citizens around the globe experience climate change, economic reform, international cooperation, and other globalizing forces.
The wisdom of the crowd
Our study finds that stakeholders around the world express major concerns about themes of critical importance to decision makers. Notably, they are especially worried about inequality and climate change and expect their government to do more and to work with other countries to address these problems.
When it comes to inequality, our global respondents worry that immigrants, women, and people of minority religions are disadvantaged in their society, but that uneducated people are especially marginalized. At least 40% of respondents in every region call “people with low levels of education” disadvantaged. Furthermore, only 42% of all respondents call their local schools “excellent” or “good” and 50% of respondents say that a “good education” is the privilege reserved for half or fewer of citizens.
Our research participants are similarly concerned about the environment: approximately two-thirds of global respondents say that global warming is caused “mostly by human activity.” More than 80% of respondents say it is “extremely” or “very important” to recycle what they can, and a plurality of respondents in every region say the best way to reduce the harmful effects of plastics is to “replace plastics with other materials.”
Collectively, we find a world of citizen-stakeholders who are worried about societal and environmental threats—obstacles to the World Economic Forum’s ideal of a “Cohesive and Sustainable World.” Furthermore, the same research participants express support for greater government intervention (53% say their government does too little to provide opportunities to all groups and 61% say their government does too little to protect the environment) and more cooperation between countries (nearly three-quarters of all respondents think it is very important for countries to work together toward a common goal).
The global participants in our research identify many immediately actionable ways for decision makers to address some of the world’s most pressing needs. By understanding experiences of citizen-stakeholders throughout the world, decision makers can engage in more productive dialogue, make better policy decisions, and keep pace with customers, employees, communities, and other shareholders in a fast-evolving world.
Steven Snell, PhD, is a senior research methodologist specializing in survey science. He advises clients across Brand XM and Product XM on research, sampling, and questionnaire design and leads Qualtrics strategic research initiatives for the World Economic Forum, Character Lab, and the HP National Education Technology Assessment. Steven holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Survey Methodology at Duke University.