Newham Citizens Assembly
Newham is committed to supporting residents to get involved in shaping their communities and help improve our services. Our Citizens Assembly is a key part of that, alongside our People Powered Places programme.
Democracy and Civic Participation Commission
Newham’s independent Democracy and Civic Participation Commission, established in 2019, examined innovative ways in which local residents could have opportunities to be more engaged and involved in local decision-making and the Council’s work. One of the recommendations of the Commission was the development of a Permanent Citizens Assembly. The recommendations were approved by Newham Council.
The membership of the Citizens Assembly
To select the Citizens Assembly, the Council wrote to 10,000 households, selected randomly, inviting them to register to become a member of the Citizens’ Assembly, of which 500 registered to take part.
From those who registered to take part, 50 were selected randomly to join Newham’s Citizens Assembly to discuss important issues and help shape policies as part of a wider agenda to help make Newham a healthier and happier place to live. Since then, we’ve brought back half of those who took part in the first assembly, alongside 25 new assembly members.
The residents have been selected through what’s called a sortition method to reflect a representative sample of the population in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, disability, occupation, and geographical area within the borough.
The Council also set up an Advisory Group to provide advice to inform the selection of evidence and experts to the Assembly and bring knowledge of their sector, both within the borough and at a regional & national level.
How it works
Mobilising the Assembly
In advance of the main sessions of the Assembly, the scope of the theme is developed and evidence is brought together on the topic. Members of the Citizens Assembly are invited to take part and provided with support to enable them to be able to fully participate (i.e. childcare, interpreting, digital skills, etc.). We also provide training for the residents on developing policy making skills (from how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, develop ideas, prioritise issues, etc.). We invite an Advisory Group of partners to input and feedback on the process, theme and potential organisations we could invite to share their experience with the Assembly.
Making sense of the issue
For the initial set of sessions, the Citizens Assembly will make sense of the challenges and opportunities surrounding the issue and be connected with other people to get a rounded perspective of the theme. This can be through their own experience, neighbourhood tours, insights from services and partners, insights from residents with lived experience of the issues, innovative practice from beyond the borough nationally and even internationally. They then prioritise what issues are most important to them on the theme.
Once they’ve identified the key issues on the theme they want to focus on, the next set of sessions is for the Assembly to develop ideas based on those issues. They will then get coaching from relevant services and external organisations to help them think about how those ideas can achieve the desired outcomes, how they can be delivered and any risks they will need to consider.
Turning ideas into recommendations
From an initial set of ideas, the residents on the Assembly will then prioritise those that are most important according to different measures of impact, and develop those into more fully formed recommendations. They will then vote on those recommendations. Throughout the process, they will meet together as an Assembly in a set of sessions, and have smaller Micro Group calls where they can get to know each other and share lessons learned.
They will then present their recommendations to a Council Panel, and following this to Full Council. They are given training to present options in public to develop their skills in how to pitch ideas. Newham’s Cabinet then shares its response on the recommendations and what the Council will do.
Citizens Assembly Themes
Greening the Borough
The vision for this theme was:
“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?”
15 Minute Neighbourhoods
The vision for this theme was:
“A 15 minute neighbourhood will have accessible and inclusive transport links that are sustainable long term, allowing people who live in the borough to access the everyday services they need via cycling, walking and other forms of public transport that is inclusive of the needs of residents and affordable.”
What’s coming next
The theme for the forthcoming Citizens Assembly will be agreed in the Autumn of 2023 and following then mobilisation of residents to participate in a set of sessions over the Spring of 2024.
For more information about the Citizens Assembly, please contact email@example.com
If you want to get involved in our neighbourhood assemblies called People Powered Places go to https://newhamco-create.co.uk/en/pages/people-powered-places
To get involved in having your say about the Council and improving your communities please go to https://newhamco-create.co.uk/en/