Tuesday 18 May, 11am - 1pm

Public participation has an important role to play in how local governments respond to both everyday challenges and unforeseen crises. The last decade has seen a flourishing of new ways to work in partnership with the public, using tools like participatory budgeting, deliberative workshops, and citizens' assemblies, to deliver better policy outcomes, rebuild trust in political institutions, and empower citizens to play an active role in the decisions that affect them.

We're delighted to be teaming up with the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) to offer this webinar to their member councils and stakeholders. 

The webinar will include:

  • Introduction to public participation and its role in policy development and decision making
  • An overview of the methods and tools of public participation
  • The benefits and opportunities of public participation for councils, civil society, and the general public
  • Examples of where public participation has been used to address difficult policy challenges at local government level, including hearing from Councillor Paula O'Rourke, who has played a leading role in piloting deliberative public engagement for Bristol City council, and Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies who will discuss the challenges and opportunities of involving the public in cross border cooperation. 

For more information and to register, click here


Shane Campbell – CEO, Irish Central Border Area Network

The need for a cross border partnership was identified by local authorities within the Central Border Region in the early 1990s which led to the formal establishment of the Irish Central Border Area Network or ICBAN in 1995. ICBAN was founded to promote cross-border co-operation and communication at a Local Government level on common regional development concerns. This provided a forum to respond to the unique economic and social needs of the Central Border Region.

The eight Member Councils areas of the Central Border Region includes Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon; Fermanagh and Omagh; Mid Ulster and the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo. Many of these areas share similar geographical, economic, social, administrative and political characteristics.

Dr Anthony Soares – Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies

Anthony Soares holds a doctorate from Queen’s University Belfast where he was a Lecturer in Portuguese Studies and founding Director of the Postcolonial Research Forum before joining the Centre for Cross Border Studies in 2014. He became the Centre’s Director in 2020, leading in the organisation’s development and advocacy of policies at regional, national and European levels that support sustainable cross-border and transnational cooperation. This has increasingly meant coordinating the Centre’s responses to the UK’s referendum on EU membership and its aftermath, publishing Briefing Papers and reports, submitting evidence to parliamentary committees in both Westminster and Dublin, and consulting with a range of political representatives and organisations on the island of Ireland, Great Britain and in Europe. Since 2021, when the Centre led in its establishment, he has also been the convenor of the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation, which acts as the prime contact point for purposes of meaningful consultation between cross-border civil society and regional, national and EU bodies on matters relevant to cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.

Kaela Scott – Director of Innovation and Practice, Involve

Kaela is Director of Innovation and Practice at Involve, a role focused on developing the theory and practice of public engagement and new forms of democratic participation.

Kaela came to Involve after working for 13 years in the community planning and capacity building sector within local government in Scotland. Here she developed a grounded understanding of the practical, political and policy work required to translate the desire to involve citizens in the decisions that affect them into processes that are meaningful and effective for communities, public sector bodies and political administrations alike.

Since joining Involve in 2015, and founding Involve’s office in Scotland, Kaela has led on a wide range of engagement and research projects, with a particular focus on how to involve the public in dialogue and deliberation around complex and technical issues.

Cllr Paula O'Rourke – Bristol City Council

Paula O’Rourke was elected to Bristol City Councl in 2016 and is one of the two Green councillors in Clifton. 

An Irish citizen, Paula has lived in England most of her life and moved from the East Midlands to Bristol in 2013.  She worked in education for over 20 years. Taking a less demanding role when she moved to Bristol, Paula had free time to engage in local politics. She says, “Getting into local politics started with conviction but it has turned out to be an exceptionally good way to get to know lots of people!”

Retired from teaching now, Paula can give extra time to local politics and is the Chair of the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny panel. 

Paula has a mantra which she often repeats. It goes like this; ‘For democracy to work, we need an informed demos (which is Greek for ‘people’)and a reliable media”.  Not being able to do much about the latter, she felt she wanted to put her energies into improving the former.  She wanted to reboot democracy, so she put some capital letters on that phrase and submitted it as a motion to the Full Council meeting in January 2019. The Reboot Democracy motion was passed with cross-party support and the adventure that led to Bristol's first Citizens’ Assembly in January 2021.

This programme is developed in partnership with ICBAN and is funded by the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade Reconciliation Fund. In addition to the webinar, Involve is also offering a six-part training course for senior officers working in the eight member councils of ICBAN. For more information on that opportunity, click here

Who is this webinar for?

  • Councillors
  • Local government officials
  • Members of community planning partnerships
  • Civil society organisations and other stakeholders