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The Strategy Room: an innovative approach for involving communities in shaping local net zero pathways

The Strategy Room is an immersive experience that helps local authorities engage their residents in designing net zero policy that responds to local, social and environmental contexts.

What's in the report

Between January and March 2023, we piloted a novel digital engagement tool, The Strategy Room, to help local authorities understand their residents’ priorities for net-zero policies on the topics of heat, travel and food.

Twelve local authorities ran 66 public engagement sessions between them, attracting almost 640 participants to make policy recommendations for their local areas. This report presents the preliminary results from the pilot study.

Our findings

  1. There is strong support for most net zero policies, and policies that are more community-oriented seem to be more popular than more individualistic policies.
  2. Local context seems to make a difference to policy preferences. ‘Community energy schemes’ and ‘sustainable and local sourcing of food for public services’ were popular everywhere. Travel policies showed the most variation in preferences both within and between different locations.
  3. Health and community cohesion co-benefits are the strongest predictors of whether people recommended specific net-zero policies. But for some policies, co-benefits that reflect real-time public concerns such as energy security are most important.
  4. Participants in The Strategy Room were significantly more positive about net-zero policies than the respondents in an online poll. They also reported feeling more able to reduce climate change and more connected to their local area.
  5. Even short discussions of 5 to 10 minutes can lead to small but significant changes in opinion. Deliberation led to an overall increase in ratings for three of the eight policies tested and good deliberation increased people’s satisfaction with the group’s final policy recommendations.
  6. Creative digital tools for public engagement on net zero make climate policy more accessible to diverse audiences, helping councils reach beyond ‘the usual suspects’.
  7. The results show the public appetite for bold net-zero policies and that people have clear preferences for which policies would work best in the places they live. This pilot also demonstrates that, compared to traditional methods like opinion surveys, innovative public engagement methods may increase buy-in for net zero policies and build people’s sense of being able to impact climate change – both important prerequisites for behavioural change.

Key recommendations

Our results show the value of experimenting with new tools for public engagement on net zero that can combine local specificity and comparisons at a national level. To support other similar initiatives in the future and build public support for the policies that will help the UK to transition to net zero by 2050, decision makers should consider the following.

Change how they commission public engagement

Establishing a Citizen Participation Service in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to coordinate and channel resources to local climate teams would help demonstrate the governments' commitment to putting people at the centre of net-zero policy.

Change how they frame and communicate net-zero policies

Use creative public engagement that allows people to deliberate and learn about policies through interactive, engaging material. Communicate the wider co-benefits of net-zero policies. In particular, emphasise general benefits related to health as well as incorporating people’s current concerns like energy insecurity into messaging.

Change how they tailor net-zero policy at national and local levels

The UK Government needs to lead by example with strategic commitments to help councils decarbonise the housing stock and food supplies they’re responsible for, if it expects people to change how they heat their homes and the food they eat.

The Strategy Room is a collaboration between Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, digital studio Fast Familiar and University College London’s Climate Action Unit. It was designed with input from Lambeth, Sandwell and Southend-on-Sea councils. Nesta commissioned an online survey with 2,009 UK residents through YouGov’s Omnibus platform, employing quota sampling and post-stratification weighting adjustments to ensure the sample was both nationally and politically reflective of the UK population. This was conducted between 13 and 14 April. Participants were asked to rate eight core policies and two fairness-adjusted policies across the topics of travel, heat and food using condensed versions of the policies adapted from the Strategy Room narrative.

Alongside the report, we are launching an interactive platform (strategyroom.uk) where the data from Strategy Room sessions showing people’s policy preferences is openly available for anyone to explore, and for local councils to download and use for decision-making. The platform will continue to be updated regularly as more people participate in the project.

These preliminary findings are part of an ongoing analysis and further results will be published later in the year. You can view live results, and sign up to participate on our data platform.

Nesta is also developing plans for a nationwide rollout of The Strategy Room, which will give other locations an opportunity to get involved. Sign up at www.nesta.org.uk/project/strategyroom.

This report is part of our policy library for decarbonising home heating

Explore the library to learn more


Aleks Berditchevskaia

Aleks Berditchevskaia

Aleks Berditchevskaia

Principal Researcher, Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Aleks Berditchevskaia is the Principal Researcher at Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

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Christopher Edgar

Christopher Edgar

Christopher Edgar

Senior Researcher, Centre for Collective Intelligence Design


Chris works as a senior researcher, helping to deliver Nesta's mission by supporting work in democratic innovation, climate-sustainable policy and artificial intelligence for good.

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Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Director of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

The Centre for Collective Intelligence Design explores how human and machine intelligence can be combined to develop innovative solutions to social challenges

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Dan Barnard

Director and Researcher, Fast Familiar

Rachel Briscoe

Writer and Researcher, Fast Familiar