Public Square Year 1: Prototyping new approaches for citizen participation


In the first year of Public Square we partnered with four councils across the UK to prototype new approaches to public participation, and capture what was learnt along the way. We sought to involve the wider community in this work too. The four councils, and the work we did with them, are introduced below.

This work was delivered in partnership with the civic technology provider mySociety, and was funded by Luminate.

A small sat together laughing during a workshop.

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough

Calderdale Council wanted to develop a new approach to public engagement during the summer of 2019 (this was ultimately branded ‘Calderdale Conversations’). The aim of this was to:

· Build an understanding of the position that the council is in;

· Explore residents’ priorities for the future;

· Explore what the relationship (and implicit contract) between residents and the council should be.

We created up a discovery report that provides more detail about these aims, and gives background about Calderdale as a place.

Frome Town Council

Frome Council wanted to develop their ‘People’s Budget’ programme of Participatory Budgeting. Their previous year’s round was contentious, particularly around where the projects voted on had come from. Their aim this time round was to get real, meaningful, bottom up ideas for projects by focusing on idea generation and deliberation before the vote.

We created up a discovery report that provides more detail about these aims, and gives background about Frome as a place.

Glasgow City Council

This project was focussed on the future of the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens in Glasgow. Their aim was to embed citizen engagement at the heart of the development of this building. This work reached a much earlier stage than the previous two councils so we've not written reports about this. Our involvement was around understanding their context and ambition.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

We had discussions with RBKC about using digital engagement to help make the Council more transparent and inclusive in their decision making. Our intention was to work on the council’s City Living Local Life programme of ward-specific project budgets. However, the Head of Digital Communications we were working with left the council shortly after this, and after further discussions we decided in June that timings for the council would not be compatible with the first stage of Public Square.

Find out what we learnt

We created prototyping reports from our work in Frome and Calderdale. These describe the prototypes we developed, and some of the insight we gathered from testing these and from carrying out this work in Calderdale and Frome.

If you want to follow the whole story of the first year of Public Square there is a full Year One Programme Report. This was developed for our funder – but we thought it might provide some interesting insights for others.

These resources are hosted in the ‘Our Learning’ section of this site where you can also find learning from across Democratic Society’s other local democracy projects.

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