Too often, residents’ voices are missing from decision-making and direction-setting in their homes and neighbourhoods. Deliberative processes can enable a space for them to come together, and work with the different people that play a role in the place they live.
Our home and the neighbourhood we live in affects our ability to live a good life. Whether it’s the affordability of housing determining how much money we have to spend, the quality of housing impacting on how long and how well we live, or the connectivity of our neighbourhood to the things we need (likes schools and jobs) affecting the opportunities we can access – where we live interacts with almost every aspect of our daily lives.
Despite this, the role that we get to play in the decision-making that happens about our home and the neighbourhood we live in can be underwhelming. Even where there are opportunities for residents to get involved, processes like community consultations or neighbourhood planning often fail to make room for meaningful participation for all.
The RSA worked with residents in Nechells, Birmingham to see whether a deliberative process could be used to explore and respond to realities and challenges people might face in the specific place they live. We drew strongly on deliberative methods, and in particular the citizens’ assembly model, to work at a more localised level and to answer the specific challenge of residents playing a more active role in decision-making around their homes and neighbourhoods.
This report brings together insights from the RSA, and reflections and direct contributions from the residents taking part in the Nechells Knows Community Assembly, to share what we learnt from doing the Community Assembly. It brought about various individual and community-level outcomes, including:
- An increased sense of community power, with residents now actively taking steps to follow up on their recommendations and to be more involved in what happens in their neighbourhood.
- A range of stakeholders that might not have previously invested as much time and resources into the neighbourhood – from the local council to large businesses – taking steps to engage more and better with residents.
- Greater connections and a better understanding, amongst a very diverse population of residents, of the different needs and aspirations within the neighbourhood.
Alongside this report, ideas and recommendations coming out of the Community Assembly are also summarised in the second, shorter recommendations report (PDF, 1.75mb). If you would like to get in touch with the residents of Nechells to support any of their ideas and recommendations, please contact [email protected].
In part two of the Our Way Through essay series, Anthony Painter considers whether our current relationships with money, power and technology are helping or hindering society's progress.