Newham Standing Citizens’ Assembly

Overview

The London Borough of Newham has pledged to establish a standing Citizens Assembly as part of its range of measures to increase the role of residents in decision making.

We are working with Newham on the first phase of this trial which starts in July 2021 and are supporting the council to design and deliver the first assembly, on the theme of ‘Greening the Borough’. This assembly will address the following questions:

  • How can we work together to make our parks and green spaces even better for residents and visitors?
  • How do we ensure that everyone has access to quality green spaces?

Alongside this, we are training staff within the council so that Newham can continue to deliver Citizens’ Assemblies on an ongoing basis.

The theme for this assembly was chosen after a borough-wide vote between 5 options put forward by the council. There will be a second assembly later in the year that will look at the second most popular theme, ‘The 15minute neighbourhood’

The creation of this assembly enacts a recommendation of the Newham Democracy and Civic Participation Commission. We supported the public engagement for this Commission in 2020, supporting hundreds of Newham residents to share their experiences and ideas with the independent commissioners. It’s fantastic to now be supporting the realisation of one of Commission’s recommendations!

We are partnering with the participation charity, Involve to deliver this project.

Approach

With support from the Sortition Foundation, Newham have recruited 50 participants at random who reflect the demographic profile of the borough. For the first assembly, this group will come together virtually across 3 weekends and 3 weekday evenings between mid-June and the end of July. During these sessions they will have a chance to consider a range of evidence, deliberate together, and agree on recommendations to the council.

  • An Advisory Group is being recruited to ensure that evidence presented to the assembly is well- balanced and informed by a range of relevant local voices.
  • Assembly sessions will be facilitated by our team of independent facilitators.
  • Final recommendations will be presented to senior leaders in the council during the final assembly session.
  • The design will include opportunities for the wider community to inform the assembly’s work, recognising the existing activity that is already happening around this theme in the borough.

As part of our work, we are helping build capacity within the council to continue delivering citizens assemblies into the future. This will include delivering training for staff within the council and working alongside council staff to deliver aspects of the assembly.

We will work closely with the council to make sure that the assembly’s work plugs into the council’s existing activities on this topic and has a powerful impact. This starts with a workshop to define the question the Newham assembly will consider.

A standing assembly at council-level is entirely new in the UK, and there are few similar international trailblazers to learn from. How this process will work over time is still to be shaped, but the council will run a second assembly later in the year on the topic of the 15minute neighbourhood, with participants from the first assembly given the possibility of participating again. As we deliver this innovative first assembly, we will endeavour to capture learning about how the process goes, to help the council shape the future of Newham’s standing citizens’ assembly and make best use of this new institution. We hope to share this learning with a wider community to also help other places starting out on a similar journey.

Further information

For further information about this work, please contact Mel Stevens on mel@demsoc.org.

Read about our previous work on the Newham Democracy Commission.

Image: "I see grass of green" by chriscom is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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