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Digital Skills Blog

Bank of England Citizen's Panel goes virtual

11th August 2020

Cosmic CEO leads latest event

Julie Hawker, Joint CEO at Cosmic, has once again taken the role of Chairing the Bank of England's Citizens’ Panel event – with this occasion being their first ever virtual Panel meeting. Leadership within our region is an important role for Cosmic, and we are proud of Julie’s role in this endeavour.

Julie has previously chaired two Panels in 2019 when physical attendance was the mode, and events were held at Exeter Library and on the Pier at Weston-super-Mare. This recent South West panel event had attendees from right across the region, including Cheltenham, Bournemouth, Torquay, Truro, Exeter and Bristol, to name a few.

Julie's reflections on Monday's event (10th August):

"It was a real pleasure and privilege to work with the Bank of England team and Chair the first-ever virtual Citizens’ Panel. As a digital advocate working in the region's leading digital agency it felt very apt for me to be in this role, and the panel members were highly engaged and the discussions lively and positive. It was pleasing that the video-conferencing platform approach has been embraced for events such as this, demonstrating the leap that society has made towards a new digital culture."

The Bank of England in the South West

Malindi Myers, the Bank of England’s regional Agent for the South West also attended the event. Malindi and her team live and work in the region on a fulltime basis and meet with hundreds of contacts throughout the year, from small businesses and community organisations to large global companies. They gather insight into all sectors of the economy.

As a Fellow of the RSA, Julie had keenly followed the recommendation by the RSA to the Bank of England to establish Citizens’ Panels, and in March 2018 the Bank announced it would begin work on setting up regional Citizens’ Panels through its Agency network to improve engagement with members of the public. The aim is to hold 24 panels each year, with two in each Agency region/devolved nation of the United Kingdom. Each regional panel is chaired by an independent chair, a senior figure in the community who also acts as a champion for the panels. The main aims of the panels are to:

  • Create a greater understanding about the role of the Bank and its policies, in particular with regard to monetary and financial stability.
  • Reach a broader set of stakeholders and engage in more dialogue with the UK public, thereby building credibility and trust in the Bank.
  • Gather policy-relevant intelligence from households to complement (or cross check) the existing array of data and analysis received by policymakers.

Progress so far

  • Since November 2018 almost 500 people have joined 23 events across the UK
  • Over 2100 registrations to join future events
  • Over 800 participants on the online forum
  • Attending events positively impacted trust and understanding, with: “95% of participants agreed that attending the event had increased their understanding of the Bank’s responsibilities”. “75% agreed that it had increased their trust in the Bank”
  • The first Citizens’ Panel report was published on 14 May 2020. Authored by the Independent Chairs, the detailed report covers the discussions from the first 23 panel events and the online forum.

Your chance to speak up

Discussion topics for the panels are determined by a Citizens’ Panel Steering Group (including policy experts from across the Bank) and reviewed bi-annually. Citizens’ Panel discussion topics have been very widespread, and included the labour market, housing, access to cash and consumer spending. There is a high level of interest in the Bank’s monetary policy, especially the impact of low interest rates and Quantitative Easing.

The topics for this latest panel, chaired by Julie Hawker, were:

• The impact of Covid-19 on incomes and work patterns (current and future expectation)
• The impact of Covid-19 on consumer behaviour, both spending and saving habits

Digital Inclusion is key

At this time, our national and regional economy is being closely watched. News of rising unemployment is of major concern. So, it is critical that members of the public feel empowered and listened to, giving them a direct line of communication with authorities, such as the Bank of England.

Cosmic are pleased that the digital inclusion opportunity created through video-conferencing platforms has allowed this latest Citizen’s Panel to go ahead. Nevertheless, there are still huge areas of society left in positions of Digital Exclusion, lacking in Digital Skills and the means to access online-resources. Solving these issues will be critical to the long-term bounce-back from the impacts of Covid-19, closing the opportunity gap between sections of society.

Our support continues for the regional economy, the rights of citizens, and the development of leadership and digital skills. We see the Bank of England’s panel events as key part of that process, and we are pleased that Julie has been able to support this movement over the last 18 months.

Find out more and sign up for future Citizens’ Panels here.