Published on January 23, 2012

Creative Councils

Past projects

By Tim Hughes

Tim is Open Government Programme Manager at Involve and coordinator of the UK Open Government Network - a coalition of active citizens and civil society organisations committed to making government work better for people through increased transparency, participation and accountability.

Involve was commissioned by NESTA to provide community engagement support to councils participating in the Creative Councils programme.

Creative Councils is a programme from NESTA, working with the Local Government Group, to support local authorities to develop and implement radical innovations that meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Involve provided support to three Creative Councils projects:

  • Cambridgeshire County Council, in the context of reduced funding and increasing demand, is looking at alternative models of rural transport provision. Involve supported Cambridgeshire to begin to engage its rural communities to identify and develop new solutions to meet their transport needs. We provided training on community engagement and facilitation, advised on the development of an engagement strategy and facilitated the first in a series of community meetings.
  • Derbyshire County Council is developing ‘Uni-fi’, a bespoke package of support aimed at developing aspiration amongst young people in care. Involve supported the county council to develop and run an interactive event to launch the scheme and engage decision makers, service providers, foster carers and young people in developing the ideas further.
  • Leicester City Council and De Montfort University are working in partnership to demonstrate how the skills and knowledge of a University can be partnered with a Local Authority to assist and sustain the development of a community and improve the wellbeing and prospects for its’ residents. Involve advised the partners on models of community governance, provided community engagement training and ran a series of workshops with local residents to explore their role in their community.

Involve also hosted a series of free webinars on community engagement and related issues. Each session included a presentation by an expert in the field, with opportunities for participants to ask questions and make comments. Below you will find a short summary and recordings of each of the webinars:

Session 1. Where next for community engagement? – 17th February 2012

Edward Andersson, Deputy Director of Involve, reflected on where engagement is heading in a time of Localism and Austerity, looked at creative methods of engagement and gave advice on when and how they should be used.

Session 2. Positively deviant – 2nd March 2012

Jane Lewis, from Woodward Lewis and Susan Ritchie, an Involve associate and director of Mutual Gain, gave an introduction to a problem solving approach within communities called Positive Deviance. This method is based on the observation that through their uncommon (or deviant) behaviour some individuals and groups within communities develop better solutions to problems than others. It is being used across the UK and has delivered some astounding results in the form of reduced crime, improved health outcomes and much more.

Session 3. Elected representatives and community engagement – 16th March 2012

Mary Reid, a former (and undefeated) councillor, mayor and cabinet member in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames spoke about elected representatives and community engagement. During the session, Mary discussed the motivations of councillors and why it’s in their interests to engage with residents, provided some examples of structures and strategies that support public engagement, and spoke about her experiences of community engagement as an elected representative.

Session 4. Making the case – 30th March 2012

Edward Andersson, Deputy Director of Involve, explored how to make a compelling business case for community, stakeholder and public engagement. The session covered theory and practice of articulating the costs and benefits of engagement to internal and external audiences.

Session 5. Organising People for Power – a webinar introducing community organising – 27th April 2012

In this webinar, Mark Parker explored what modern broad-based organising looks like in practice, where it has come from and how organising can contribute to reviving grassroots democracy. Mark is a community organiser working in Southwark in South London, part of the four-year programme of training in organising delivered by Locality and partners across England.

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