Can civil society organisations offer local government any ideas on citizen engagement?

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 Brainstorm by Jessica Lock from The Noun ProjectWorkshop idea by Sarah Allan, with Cllr Tim Cheetham

All of the workshops at Local Democracy for Everyone have been created by our participants. We’re sharing a summary of each workshop idea to help you decide what you’d most like to participate in – and so that everyone can start to share their comments about each idea.

Can civil society organisations offer local government any ideas on citizen engagement?

The challenge:

There is a wealth of theory and best practice around how civil society organisations (CSOs) engage the public with political issues, both online and offline. What could these ideas offer to local government as it seeks to engage people with local democracy and its renewal?

With the exception of ideas around double devolution, debates in this area often focus purely on shifting powers between politicians of different levels. There tends to be an assumption, sometimes explicit, that a more local exercise of power will by itself re-engage citizens with local democracy. This workshop starts from a position that this assumption is inaccurate and that, whatever happens in terms of decentralisation, it is therefore useful to discuss how councils conceptualise their public engagement and whether this could usefully be updated or improved. Indeed any enhancement of council powers, or double devolution requirement, could be an ideal opportunity for a change in council practice in this area.

I am particularly interested in:

1. whether the mass of theory and best practice developed by CSOs on public engagement can be of use to councils; and

2. if it can, which bits are most helpful and how could work and thinking in this area develop to most benefit local democratic renewal?

Involve is in the process of developing a new programme of work on democratic reform. Depending on its outcomes, this workshop could help set the direction – and identify potential partners and participants – for a much bigger piece of work in this area.

#notwestminster #engage

Sarah AllanSarah Allan
Engagement Lead (Democratic Reform)

Sarah leads on democratic reform for Involve – a think-tank and charity which helps people take and influence the decisions that affect their lives. She started her professional life as a researcher looking at the health of democracy (The Power Inquiry). Her extensive experience since then covers research, project management, and local and national campaigning. Most recently she worked in Friends of the Earth’s Campaign Specialists Team for three years, playing a key role in its highly successful Bee Cause campaign. She then spent five months at the Electoral Reform Society, before joining the Involve team in November 2014.

Cllr Tim CheethamCllr Tim Cheetham
Barnsley Council

Born and raised in Barnsley, Tim is in his third term as a councillor for Royston ward on Barnsley MBC. Currently cabinet spokesperson for People (Achieving Potential), he has previously had cabinet responsibility for Children, Young People and Families, Development, Environment and Culture as well as Corporate Services.

Tim also represents local government at a national level having been a member of the LGA improvement and innovation board for some years and is lead member for Data and Transparency working on opening up government and it’s information. He is the member representative on the DCLG Local Public Data panel and for two years chaired the new Local Government Breakthrough Fund Review Panel looking at cutting edge ways in which to open up and use public data.

He regularly speaks on Local Government at national conferences, specialising in innovation, leadership, data and the use of social media. He is a Local Government Researcher at De Montfort University and presented his own academic research paper on Leadership in times of Austerity at the Political Studies Association annual conference last year. Tim is also using his background in research as a member of the Knowledge Navigator for Local Government Steering Group tasked with getting the best for the sector out of the research projects of the future.

One thought on “Can civil society organisations offer local government any ideas on citizen engagement?

    dave mckenna said:
    January 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I really like the idea of this workshop. One view is that government is particularly ill suited to involving the public in democracy and should be asking other bodies, particularly those in the voluntary sector, to do it for them.

    This idea has been summarised as the double doughnut of democracy:

    I’d also be really interested in seeing what a summary of good practice might look like from a CSO perspective.


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