Community Power: Co-Creating Approaches to Participatory Democracy

Wilson, Suzanne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7021-8967 (2024) Community Power: Co-Creating Approaches to Participatory Democracy. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED.

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This research, conducted by the UCLan Westlakes campus sought to bring communities together with the new Cumberland Council to co-create new ways to work together. This was done over 18 months through community workshops, where residents explored different strategies for democratic participation and later discussed these with the Council in co-creation sessions. The most important issue for communities was that any approach must be based in their community with opportunities for open and honest discussions with the Council. A voice and an opportunity for discussion were more critical to the community than having formal decision-making responsibilities, although some residents were interested in this. It was widely felt that building strong, trusting relationships between communities and the Council was the foundation of any collaborative strategy. With this in mind, communities developed a relational framework which was endorsed by officers involved in the project. The research has produced numerous outputs and outcomes, including providing an inclusive space for discussion and support for developing engagement strategies to promote the new Community Network. Residents reported increased confidence and awareness of local democratic processes as a result of being involved in the research, and community organisations benefited through developing their networks. The research is providing evidence for the promotion of a developing culture of participation within Cumberland Council, something which is explicitly referred to in the Council Plan (Cumberland Council, 2023). It is also anticipated that the frameworks presented in this report will inform a number of Cumberland Council policies. Four key recommendations are presented:
1. Provide accessible and inclusive place-based opportunities for participation.
2. Develop a hybrid community communication strategy.
3. Involve marginalised young people in decision-making through collaborating with gatekeeping organisations.
4. Invest time to build trusting relationships with communities, adopting the relational principles behind a community-council partnership.

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