‘Raising the profile’ / 7. What is the value to Members?

What do you see as the value of your service to Members – what are the key features that you promote?

In summary, from the responses below, these three elements are seen as valuable to Members:

  1. Quality of information and service delivery: High quality information, evidence, that comes from good sources and is current, objective and impartial, delivered in good time. Professional capability to analyse & summarise. Independence of the service. A trustworthy and reliable source of information.
  2. Customised service: Ability to deliver information that is otherwise hard to find; ability to analyse information to meet Member needs.
  3. Confidentiality: Requests and the identity of the Member making a request are kept confidential. (Responses to requests are also confidential – but the content may be re-used in a different format).

These three points are highly worthy and (obviously) important from a professional viewpoint and in terms of functionality. But do they relate to ‘value’ for Members? If they did, research services would be overwhelmed with demand and would be powerful departments in their parliaments. The anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not always so; and that there are widespread concerns about how known and appreciated parliamentary research (and library) services are amongst their Members.

This survey report is not the place to go into detail on the issue of value – it will be considered in a separate post. It was explored in the case of the European Parliament already ore than ten years ago and that work can be reviewed here. Some lessons were

  • Our, professional, valuation of ‘information’ is not the same as that of most Members – or many other people. We consider high-quality information as a gold-standard rare asset necessary for serious decision-making, whereas for most people information is a commodity that can be obtained from many sources; and much decision-making has to be on ‘good-enough’ rather than perfect information. We think Members should value high-quality information but often that offer does not resonate with them.
  • Members may also have easy and quick access to information – from their own staff, other Members, party staff, lobbyists, pressure groups, personal contacts. This information is far more accessible and personalised than most research services can achieve. The sources may themselves use the research service, but that may be unknown to the Member. If the Member does not have the time or wish to read much original material themselves, then an offer of ‘high-quality information’ will not resonate and whatever contribution the research service is making will not be valued.

What is the solution? Well, a couple of the responses below refer to the usefulness of the information provided in the practical achievement of a Member’s parliamentary work. That is more likely to resonate with a Member. We need to approach ‘value’ from the point of view of the client, the Member, rather than from our viewpoint as a professional supplier. What is valuable to a Member is something that can help them be successful in their parliamentary work: make an impact on policy, persuade their fellow-Members, connect better with citizens etc. If the ‘value proposition’ of the research service is expressed in those kind of terms then there is a chance it will resonate with Members.

Another solution is to address the ‘cost to the client’ of the research service offer. Value is basically utility minus cost to the client. Services have focused on product quality and perhaps not enough on utility and especially cost to the client. Just because the service has no direct financial cost to the Member it does not make it cost-free. Can services reduce costs to the Member to improve the value of their offer?


Malawi – We promote use of evidence in parliamentary debate

Argentina – I think that users value the fact that the information we provide comes always from official and reliable sources. They place value in that we provide impartial and objective information. We promote official and up-to-date information, making sure it is as complete as it can be

Slovakia – “Ability to provide high quality information that is difficult to gather and analyse (e.g. providing comparative analysis on legal regulations in other countries). Cost-effective performance – i.e. ability to professionally cope with more than 300 domestic and foreign requests per a year with just 8 researchers”

New Zealand – “Providing timely and impartial information to help them in their work as Members”

Uganda – “A trusted, dependable and objective source of evidence for strengthening Parliament”

Hungary – “I am convinced the best promotion is providing a product itself. We promote our product lines we provide pro- and reactively (on demand) as well. Providing proactive papers are an effective way to increase demand”

Finland – Analyses, calculations, facts: Members have a service which makes and finds these on whatever subject: evidence-based policy

Pakistan – “Our primary emphases are Research, Legislative, Capacity Building and Public outreach services to Hon MPs. Key features include (a) Research on Demand Program delivering in-time papers which are balanced, non-partisan and follow contemporary research methodology; (b) We have anticipated products such as PIPS Parliamentary Research Digest that is now the most read parliamentary publication in the country, which is send every month to 1500 readers including all Members of National Parliament and provincial (state) assemblies where each issue comprises of researched analysis on three current issues in addition to latest statistics on economy, climate change, covid19, defence, population, health, education and various imperative sectors useful to MPs work. (c) Holding Roundtables on imperative policy areas and current developments e.g foreign policy, Afghanistan Issue, Regional Security, Educational standards, air quality and even parliamentary reforms (d) Legislative Assessment of bills under consideration and Post Legislative Scrutiny of existing laws. (e) Orientation and Knowledge Sharing Sessions on Parliamentary Business and relevant issues for local and international Hon MPs. (f) MPs face to face talk with students, women and civil society including people with disabilities, labor and local body representatives”

Anonymised responses

  • Independence and objectivity, timeliness and relevance, client-orientation and responsiveness, comprehensiveness of our offer, personalised service, ease of accessibility in-house, outside and ‘on the go’ (mobile).
  • Updated information, quick answers and personalised advice.
  • Parliamentary groups request studies on the subjects they wish to get covered and the research service provides them with the requested information. This ability to request information and which key points they want to cover is what we want to promote
  • Legal-technical elaboration of draft laws, response to highly specific legal/constitutional questions
  • Independent and impartial research that is customised to the needs of MPs
  • Members using evidence to argue their points when debating
  • Our key feature is how responsive we are to the specific needs of members and their staff. Our research is provided in a timely, discreet way. We provide a tailored service by attempting to answer all questions that are asked by Members and their staff in the time frame that they require.
  • The experience of the service and the staff, the usefulness of the information provided in the legislative activity of the members of parliament.
  • Amending legislation and argumentation for the debates
  • As a source of independent, neutral, non-partisan and timely analysis
  • Independence, Transparency, Reliability and objectivity
  • We are an impartial, professional and user-oriented service. We ensure rapid processing of requests. We guarantee the confidentiality of the identity of the requesting user and the information we provide. We closely respect the privacy of the user.

Next in ‘Raising the Profile’:

Results in detail. Part 8 – Marketing strategies

Checklist of methods

Survey introduction

Main findings

Most popular methods

Most effective methods

Respondents comments on methods

Special activities for a new parliament

What is the value to Members?

Marketing strategies

Conclusions and recommendations

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