LGiU held a seminar on the Duty to Involve on Tuesday, with the focus on methods of involvement and making them work. Some really interesting points were raised and we had useful discussions on the Duty and the implications that it will have for local authorities.
Some of the more pertinent discussions we had were:
• Where will the money to undertake the involvement activities come from; especially when there is just no money at the moment.
The expectation is that involving ‘local persons’ in authority functions will ultimately lead to efficiencies and more effective services. However, this does not help in the short term, when money is needed now. Some suggestions included using funding in an innovative way, and that some involvement activities do not cost a lot and can be tagged onto existing activities.
Summer fete season is upon us, and one example given was of a consultation ‘game’ held at a summer fete stall where participants were invited to put beads in jars depending on their preferences. Simple, cheap and effective.
• How do you manage expectations of the public who do get involved? This becomes a much greater issues when the community wants something that simply can not be delivered.
The community should be involved early on in the process and you need to be realistic with them about the scope of a decision that can be taken, or the amount of money that is on offer to them.
Transparency of the involvement process will also be important to make sure that participants do not feel that the ‘wool is being pulled over their eyes’. Finally the importance of feeding back to the participants at all stages of the process will also help manage expectations and let participants know that they are being listened to.
• Evaluation, evaluation, evaluation.
Evaluation should be an ongoing part of the participation process as a focus on outcomes and what you have learnt will enable you to move forward and onto your next activity.
Also raised were issues about Section 106 money, tensions between officers, members and community groups, and at what point do communities’ concerns reach a strategic level. But answers to these were less clear!
If anyone has questions, wants to challenge anything above or has some experience that you want to share, let us know or leave a comment below.