Citizen Power

The Citizen Power Peterborough: Impact and Learning report closes the 3 year programme of work across the city.  Citizen Power Peterborough was a partnership between the RSA, Peterborough City Council and Arts Council England.  It was a new approach to exploring how re-energising communities might improve attachment and develop networks between people, build local participation and cultivate public service innovation.

Download Citizen Power Peterborough: Impact and Learning (PDF, 272KB)

Citizen Power Peterborough included the following 7 projects:

  • Sustainable Citizenship: how very local communities can help solve environmental problems
  • Recovery Capital: how the personal, social and community capital can help tackle problematic drug and alcohol use and generate the support necessary for recovery 
  • Peterborough Curriculum: enhancing educational opportunity for and civic participation for young people by connecting what they learn in school to the place where they live
  • Civic Commons: creating spaces for political and social debate, discussion and local activism
  • Arts and Social Change: delivering high-quality creative experiences through the arts to strengthen civic life in the city
  • ChangeMakers: mapping local civic leaders and seeking to unlock the collective asset they represent
  • Innovation Forum: enablement of senior managers across the city to  forge a new public service culture based on cooperation and creativity

Overall the programme aimed to un-tap the potential of Peterborough’s communities and citizens. It aimed to see that public services increased social value and helped communities become more resilient and self-reliant.  The Citizen Power Peterborough: Impact and Learning report concludes that the programme made a difference to many citizens feeling that they could make a difference within their communities themselves. Engagement opportunities were embraced and confidence within many of the groups we worked with was demonstrably increased. A sense of pride in the city was also strengthened through this work. 

As a part of the evaluation of Citizen Power Peterborough, in a joint AHRC/RSA Citizen Power research project Dr Mark Roberts from De Montfort University explored the impacts of citizen participation in Peterborough. The animation illustrates the headline findings.

For local authorities and civic organisations introducing similar projects around citizen power, the RSA has the following advice:

  • People are willing: Hundreds of people in Peterborough had the skills, commitment and potential connections to make important contributions to civic capacity. Beyond them a much larger group were willing to engage if the right opportunities, incentives and support were in play.
  • Be in it for the long haul: Citizen engagement does not come for free, nor is it realistic to believe that once initial momentum has been built that engagement will sustain without further support.
  • Monitor progress: It is easy to put too much emphasis on the numbers of people engaged and too little on what they actually achieve. The messy, complex nature of citizen mobilization makes it even more important to have robust ways of managing projects and evaluating their progress.
  • Understand your area: Assess and map what’s already happing in your city and find out what can be adapted and built-upon rather than being reinvented. Understanding where there is enthusiasm for a citizen power approach. Ally your approach with a deep and nuanced understanding of the specificities of each place and its people.

The Citizen Power Peterborough: Impact and Learning report concluded that although the impact and strength varied from strand to strand, overall it was a successful intervention. While the RSA, Peterborough City Council and Arts Council England may not have achieved all their aims, by combining efforts and investment, more was achieved together than any could have managed alone.