Local public services cannot spend their way to good outcomes. For places to thrive, councils and other public bodies need to be better at generating value from the assets that are already within their communities – the knowledge, skills, networks and passions of the people who live and work there. They need to be smart and generous in the way they bring communities into commissioning and decision making; and they need to be imaginative in encouraging different parts of their communities to come together, collaborate and find the solutions that work for them.
Yet many of our civic structures and cultures are still based on reporting and challenge, advocacy and response. Instead of the local authority as the authoritative parent, and communities as supplicant children, we need to move to an adult to adult model.
Local government is alive to the challenge. Bold innovation is making its mark in different places and sectors. Impact Hubs, community commissioning and asset mapping are bringing people together differently. But we know that barriers remain including trust, culture, legitimacy, marketised commissioning relationships and adversarial decision making.
In Wiltshire, the RSA built on arts-based practice developed in Peterborough to establish a series of Creative Gatherings. The gatherings brought together cross sections of local people to participate in reflection and decision making.
Download our guide to Creative Gatherings - introducing their key elements with practical advice on putting one together.