After all the build-up it’s time to introduce the first of Public Square’s council partners: Calderdale Council.
What is happening in Calderdale?
Over the years, the work of councils has changed. We live in very different societies today than we have in the past. Every council has an implicit ‘social contract’ with its residents – an unspoken understanding of what each other’s roles and responsibilities are. But as times have changed it’s time we looked more closely at what citizens and government can expect from each other, and thought about how both partners can best work together to create the kind of places we want to live in. This summer Calderdale Council want to build a conversation in their borough about just this.
What is Public Square’s role?
We’ll be working with the council and residents to understand the best way of having this conversation. Our work will include several stages, in order to explore, design and test out approaches:
- Discovery. We’ll start off by getting an understanding of the context, and understanding the wants and needs of those who’ll be involved. We’ll look at questions like: how are the council and residents working together already, what relationships and networks already exist, who are the key stakeholders locally, what have past experiences of citizen involvement in decision-making been like, and what do citizens and the council want to get out of this new project.
- Design. We’ll then work with a wide range of people to design the project, responding to what we’ve heard. We are keen that we don’t just work with councils but also involve wider stakeholders and citizens in this work. This design stage will include agreeing a clearer picture of what each project is aiming to achieve, and how success can be evaluated. We’ll also be looking for inspiration from what has been done elsewhere (if you know of anything we should be looking at do get in touch).
- Testing. We’ll provide councils with some practical help with delivering these projects, with an emphasis on enabling the council and their community to achieve something that can be sustained and built upon beyond our involvement. Where possible we want to work in an iterative way – testing things out, learning from these experiments, and making adjustments.
- Sharing. Crucially we’ll be talking publicly about the work we are doing, and sharing lessons from it. Every community is different and the approaches developed won’t be completely replicable elsewhere, but we hope that some of these approaches could provide inspiration elsewhere. More importantly we hope to show a way of sensitively designing local democratic processes that others can make use of where they are. By sharing our frank reflections on the process we hope others can learn more about how to do this well. We’ll also be helping people from each community we are working with to share reflections with each other, and hope to have more news on this soon…
Calderdale is a metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire with about 200,000 residents, and includes towns like Halifax, Brighouse, Todmorden, and Hebden Bridge. The council had no overall control since 2002 until Labour established a majority in this May’s elections. Their Vision 2024 sets out some of the key things they stand for, including a refreshing focus on the importance of kindness. And there are interesting things happening in the community itself, for instance Todmorden is the birthplace of Incredible Edible.
Where are we up to? What happens next?
We’ve had a number of meetings with senior officers in the council to get an understanding of what they want to do, and to introduce our approach. Next we are hoping to talk to a wider range of voices about the current context in Calderdale, and are planning a co-design workshop for later in May to bring together people from the council and the wider community to thrash out ideas for building this conversation about a new social contract. We’ll be sharing more as we go through this blog. If you want a blow-by-blow picture of what we’re doing you can also keep an eye on our weeknotes, or follow us on Twitter @PublicSquareUK. It’s exciting to be getting started…
If you are interested in finding out more about this work, know someone in Calderdale we should be speaking to, or know of other projects we could learn from for this work, please get in touch on: firstname.lastname@example.org