‘Week’notes: Shortlisting and Voting in Frome, w/c 7th October

We’ve decided to switch to fortnightly updates (“sprint notes”?), and are hoping that this will give us more time to communicate about what we are doing in other formats alongside these notes. So this update (and those that follow) describes what we’ve been up to for the last two weeks, and what’s coming up this week and next one.


  • Ran a shortlisting event for Frome’s Participatory Budgeting process.
  • Go live on Frome’s online vote.
  • Pulling together reports for Frome and Calderdale.

Last fortnight…

  • A few weekends back we ran a shortlisting event in Frome. This event was designed to take eligible ideas generated across Frome down to 5 that would go forward to a final vote. We had some really great discussions with a group of residents from across the town, thinking about the impact, equity and feasibility of these ideas. It wasn’t always easy but people were really enthused by the quality of conversation and ultimately arrived at a final selection. We’ll be talking more about how the process went and what we’ve learnt later on.
A group of six people sat round a table listening one person reading information about one of the proposals.
Proposals being reviewed at Frome’s shortlisting event.
  • The Frome Town Vote is now live for the next month, with people able to vote by ranking the ideas online through a surveymonkey poll we helped set up, or by postcard poll cards created by the Town Council. These offline voting slips will be made available at the council office as well as being taken out and about at various events across Frome.
  • Calderdale Council are continuing to test out the prototype conversation tools that were co-designed with residents. Below is some feedback from North Halifax Partnership staff who took the ‘Listening Sofa’ out for another trial at a local community event a few weeks back:
    • Things that went well: We listened  to 32 people , we were able to identify loves, concerns, dreams and ideas that people have for the local area. We made new contacts in the community  and have identified a potential leader for a growing project. 
    • Things that could have been improved: we were a bit tucked away to the edge of the event, although this offered  an element of privacy, we weren’t visible. There were two of us and it was a three seater sofa so if we were both sitting, it didn’t entice others to join us.  Although the sofa was comfortable it was fairly low, meaning a few older people didn’t want to sit down for fear of not being able to get back up. Although the sofa proved to be an excellent tool for our specific listening purposes, it didn’t really promote spontaneous conversation between people at this event, which was one of the main hopes. Everyone who sat on the sofa already knew each other and the conversation was directed entirely by ourselves.
    • Learning we took from the event: Better signage and some sort of display was required to draw people’s attention. More than one sofa and some chairs, would work better-  a listening lounge perhaps? Although we offered chocolates, the addition of other refreshments would have encouraged people to sit with us for longer.

This fortnight we will…

  • Be working on reports of our work in Frome and Calderdale, so that we have a record of discovery, prototyping, and ultimately learning and reflections.
  • Be writing up discussion notes from the Frome workshop for the Town Council. And writing up how the workshop worked and what was learnt either as a blog or as part of these reports.

What we’re thinking…

  • One of the interesting things we were grappling with in Frome was navigating the limitations on what a Town Council can do. By talking with participants about the feasibility of ideas we were able to show some of the constraints on the council, and improve understanding of some of the challenges they have to work with. At the same time it was a challenge to fully explore these, and consider how to negotiate them, in the time available. How best to manage tensions like these is one of the challenges faced in developing a more participatory democracy.

And finally…