Thinking about the Gather space after Sunderland

Thanks again to the people of South Hylton for an excellent workshop on NHS Citizen on Thursday. The most important part for me was the discussion about the Gather layer, which expanded the list of our tricky questions (in case you’re wondering, that’s a good thing). The main points that I took away are: National/local: Gather has to be something that works at local and national level. Someone said that people will often want to raise and solve issues at local level, and that Gather should not only allow that but encourage it.…Read more

The Open Office: a drop-in centre for neighbourhood planning

Here's a great idea reported in the Guardian. The physicality of local planning makes local workshops easy to arrange - could you have a central Government policy equivalent? A new project at London's Architecture Foundation, masterminded by young architecture practice We Made That, aims to tackle this problem and put the workings of localism on public show for all to explore – and take part in. "We were fascinated by the fact that communities were being given the power to write their own future, and yet they weren't being shown how to do…Read more

Power-sharing in Place-making

This post is by Nick Wright, and originally appeared on his blog, People, Place and Planning. Over the last five years, co-production and collaboration have become popular – the concepts of people and organisations working together to make better places, with a focus on action. For some examples, look through the case studies in the excellent Compendium for the Civic Economy or the winning projects of last month’s SURF regeneration awards. There’s clearly no shortage of excellent community-based projects which are improving places and making real differences to people’s lives. What worries me is that, despite this…Read more

What about medium-sized?

In 2006, before the financial crisis and the resultant fiscal collapse, the last Government published a Local Government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities. This is to some degree the ur-text of localism. It also points to some of the financial and administrative challenges that have confronted councils, with increasing intensity, ever since. The White Paper exhorted councillors and officers to get out of their town halls and take local government to where people really live, into the communities electors recognise. Services were to be tailored to meet the needs and demands of those localities and even, where possible,…Read more

Think national, act local

This column originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle.  For the last month or so, I’ve been working on one issue – how to take decisions openly – in two different projects, one in Whitehall and one in Lewes District Council. The contrasts are fascinating. With the Cabinet Office I’ve been running a discussion about open policy-making on a new blog at - where contributions from local government would be very welcome. At local level, I’ve been working with Lewes District Council to create a statement of principles on how they involve…Read more

Speech at Conservative Councillors’ Association Conference 2012 (#cca12)

I gave a speech at the Conservative Councillors' Association conference earlier today, on a panel with Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, the leader of Hammersmith & Fulham, and Cllr Chris Hayward from Three Rivers district near where I grew up in west Hertfordshire. Unusually for me, I wrote a relatively full draft of what I wanted to say. This wasn't what I actually said - I added a fair bit as I was going along, and varied the order of points a couple of times, but it's probably a reasonable summary. For what it's worth…Read more

Is this Dalston?

I've talked to a few people about Euan Mills' excellent little project to find the place people describe as "Dalston" (a suburb of North London), but have never been able to find the link to it. So, thanks Strange Maps blog, who have posted about it with the original place-name graph - obtained by stopping every two hundred metres along the A10 and asking ten people "where am I?"Read more

Summit to cheer about

We've been involved in a fair few unconferences as participants or organisers, so we're really pleased to be co-facilitating the Solace Summit, in Edinburgh in October, which is taking the radical-for-conferences step of involving the audience properly, and trying to achieve things (rather than talk about them). The typical local government conference has a parade of grey-suited men on a platform, giving presentations that are usually a variation on this one: Beautiful borchester View more presentations from The Democratic Society I'm pretty sure that most of us are familiar with - and bored…Read more

Big Society shrinkage?

Lord Wei, the Coalition Government’s Big Society 'tsar', stood down today. Cue a chorus of puns about small society and volunteers doing his job, and more dire warnings about how Cameron’s flagship policy is under threat.  But in the midst of all this Jo Ivens asks what is worth pursuing out of the ideas corralled under the Big Society banner. Lord Wei of Shoreditch Coming the day after Cameron again relaunched Big Soc, this is indeed a blow. However, within the Big Society policy there are useful principles and opportunities which the voluntary sector and those…Read more