What we learnt from Public Square Year 1: Prototyping new approaches to local participation


In the first year of Public Square we prototyped new approaches to citizen participation with local councils. We recorded this in a prototyping report that records what we designed, and what was learnt from this. You can now read prototyping reports for our work in Calderdale and Frome. You can also read our year one report, that tells the story of our first year of activities.

New conversations in Calderdale

Calderdale council wanted to develop a new approach to public engagement over the summer of 2019, ultimately branded ‘Calderdale Conversations’. The aims for this included:

Building an understanding of the position that the council is in; • Exploring residents’ priorities for the future; and • Exploring what the relationship (and implicit contract) between residents and the council should be.

To support this we worked with a group of active citizens, council staff and councillors to collectively design new approaches to engagement that could be tested out as part of these conversations.

Our prototyping report sets out what was designed through these activities and what was learnt along the way. At time of writing these were still in the early stages of being tested out.

We have also captured reflections about the programme from some of those involved in Calderdale.

Participatory Budgeting in Frome

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 helped them set up online idea generation alongside their process for gathering suggestions online. And we helped design and facilitate an offline event for shortlisting proposals, with a group of randomly selected citizens working alongside councillors.

Our prototyping report describes what was designed, and some initial evaluation of these prototypes.

The big one! Our Year One report

If you want to follow the whole story of the first year of Public Square there is a full Year One Programme Report. This includes work with Glasgow City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This was developed for our funder – but we thought it might provide some interesting insights for others.

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